For the Celts, who lived in central Europe, Lugh was a Sun god. The underworld god Balor was his grandfather. Balor was the leader of the Fomorii. The Fomorii were evil people that lived in the underworld.
According to a prophecy, Balor was to be killed by a grandson. To prevent the happening of the prophecy, Balor tried to kill his grandson, but Lugh miraculously survived. Lugh was secretly raised by the god of the sea, Manannan, and became an expert warrior.
When he reached manhood, he joined the peoples of the goddess Dana, named the Tuatha De Danaan, to help them in their struggle against the Fomorii and Balor. Balor had an evil eye capable of killing whomever looked at it. Lugh threw a magic stone ball into Balor's eye, and killed Balor.
Lugh corresponds to the Welsh god Lleu and the Gallic Lugos. From Lugh's name derives the names of modern cities such as Lyon, Laon and Leyden. Today, people remember the figure of Lugh with a festival which commemorates the beginning of the harvest in August.
FROM: Windows to the Universe: Lugh
Lug or Lugh (modern Irish: Lú, pronounced "loo") is a former Irish deity represented in mythological texts as a hero and High King of the distant past. He is known by the epithets Lámfhada ("long hand"), for his skill with a spear or sling, Samildánach ("multi-talented", "skilled in many arts"), Lonnbeimnech ("fierce striker") and Macnia ("boy hero"), and by the matronymic mac Ethlenn or mac Ethnenn ("son of Ethliu or Ethniu"). He is a reflex of the pan-Celtic god Lugus, and his Welsh counterpart is Llew Llaw Gyffes.
Lug's father was Cian of the Tuatha Dé Danann and his mother was Ethniu, daughter of Balor, of the Fomorians. Their union is presented as a dynastic marriage between the two peoples in the Book of Invasions, but later folklore tells a more elaborate story, reminiscent of the birth of Perseus from Greek mythology. According to a prophecy, Balor was to be killed by his grandson, so he locked his daughter Ethniu in a tower of crystal, usually located on Tory Island, to keep her from becoming pregnant. However Cian, with the help of the druidess Birog, managed to enter the tower and seduce her. She gave birth to triplets, but Balor threw them into the ocean. Two of the babies either drowned or turned into seals (compare the birth of Dylan and his twin, Llew Llaw Gyffes in Welsh mythology), but Birog saved one, Lug, and gave him to Manannan mac Lir, who became his foster father. He was nursed by Tailtiu.
There may be further triplism associated with his birth. His father, Cian, is usually mentioned together with his brothers Cú ("hound") and Cethen, who nonetheless have no stories of their own, and two characters called Lugaid, a popular medieval Irish name thought to derive from Lug, have three fathers: Lugaid Riab nDerg was the son of the three Findemna or fair triplets, and Lugaid mac Con Roí was also known as mac Trí Con, "son of three hounds". Notably, in Ireland's other great "sequestered maiden" story, the tragedy of Deirdre, the king's intended is carried off by three brothers, who are hunters with hounds. The canine imagery continues with another Lugaid, Lugaid mac Con, and of course Lug's son Cúchulainn. In some stories Cian was able to transform into a dog. Perhaps in a lost version of the myth, Ethniu was impregnated by three brothers with canine associations.
Lug joins the Tuatha Dé Danann
As a young man Lug travelled to Tara to join the court of king Nuada of the Tuatha Dé Danann. The doorkeeper would not let him in unless he had a skill with which to serve the king. He offered his services as a wright, a smith, a champion, a swordsman, a harpist, a hero, a poet and historian, a sorceror and a craftsman, but each time was rejected as the Tuatha Dé already had someone with that skill. But when Lug asked if they had anyone with all those skills simultaneously, the doorkeeper had to admit defeat, and Lug joined the court. He won a flagstone-throwing contest against Ogma, the champion, and entertained the court with his harp.
The Tuatha Dé were at that time oppressed by the Fomorians, and Lug was amazed how meekly they accepted this. Nuada began to wonder if this young man could lead them to freedom. Lug was given command over the Tuatha Dé, and he began making preparations for war.
The sons of Tuireann
When the sons of Tuireann, Brian, Iuchar and Iucharba, killed his father, Cian (who was in the form of a pig a the time), Lug set them a series of seemingly impossible quests as recompense. They achieved them all, but were fatally wounded in completing the last one. Despite Tuireann's pleas, Lug denied them the use of one of the items they had retrieved, a magic pigskin which healed all wounds. They died of their wounds, and Tuireann died of grief over their bodies.
The Battle of Magh Tuireadh
Using the magic artefacts the sons of Tuireann had gathered, Lug led the Tuatha Dé Danann in the Second Battle of Mag Tuireadh against the Fomorians. Nuada was killed in the battle by Balor. Lug faced Balor, who opened his terrible, poisonous eye that killed all it looked upon, but Lug shot a sling-stone that drove his eye out the back of his head, wreaking havoc on the Fomorian army behind. In some versions he uses a spear.
After the victory Lug found Bres, the half-Fomorian former king of the Tuatha Dé, alone and unprotected on the battlefield, and Bres begged for his life. If he was spared, he promised, he would ensure that the cows of Ireland always gave milk. The Tuatha Dé refused the offer. He then promised four harvests a year, but the Tuatha Dé said one harvest a year suited them. But Lug spared his life on the condition that he teach the Tuatha Dé how and when to plough, sow and reap.
Later life and death
Lug instituted the harvest festival of Lughnasadh in memory of his foster-mother, Tailtiu, held on 1 August at the town that bears her name (now Teltown, County Meath), and to have led horse races and displays of martial arts. It is a celebration of Lugh's triumph over the spirits of the Other World who had tried to keep the harvest for themselves. It survived long into Christian times and is still celebrated under a variety of names. Lúnasa is now the Irish name for the month of August.
Lug is said to have invented the board game fidchell. He had a dog called Failinis.
He had several wives, including Buí, who was buried at Knowth, and Nás, whjo gave her name to Naas in County Kildare. His daughter or sister was Ebliu, who married Fintan. One of his wives, unnamed, had an affair with Cermait, son of the Dagda. Lug killed him in revenge, but Cermait's sons, Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht and Mac Gréine, killed him in return, drowning him Loch Lugborta. He had ruled for forty years.
Lug in other cycles and traditions
In the Ulster Cycle he fathered Cúchulainn on the mortal maiden Deichtine. When Cúchulainn lay wounded after a gruelling series of combats during the Táin Bó Cuailnge (Cattle Raid of Cooley), Lug appeared and healed his wounds over a period of three days.
In Baile in Scáil (The Phantom's Trance), a story of the Historical Cycle, Lug appeared in a vision to Conn of the Hundred Battles. Enthroned on a daïs, he directed a beautiful woman called the Sovereignty of Ireland to serve Conn a portion of meat and a cup of red ale, ritually confirming his right to rule and the dynasty that would follow him.
In the Fenian Cycle the dwarfharperCnú Deireóil claimed to be Lug's son.
The Luigne, a people who inhabited Counties Meath and Sligo, claimed descent from him.
Lug's name and nature
Lug's name has been interpreted as deriving from the Indo-European root *leuk-, light, and he is often surrounded by solar imagery, so from Victorian times he has often been considered a sun god, similar to the Greco-Roman Apollo. Alexei Kondratiev notes his epithet lonnbeimnech and that folklore in County Mayo described thunderstorms as a battle between Lug and Balor, and concludes that "if his name has any relation to 'light' it more properly means 'lightning-flash' (as in Breton luc'h and Cornish lughes)", making him a storm god. He also appears in folklore as a trickster. Nonetheless, these are Brythonic languages in which Proto-Celtic *k as in *Leuk- ('flashing light') did undergo systematic sound changes into -gh- and -ch- in a process called 'phonetic mutation,' which process is also found in the Welsh language.
Indeed, Lugh is a more complicated figure than any one such designation would allow. The best parallels from classical mythology would appear to be the Roman god Mercury and his Greek counterpart Hermes. Julius Caesar says that Mercury, believed to the inventor of all the arts, was the most revered god in Gaul, which parallels Lug's epithet samildanach and his mastery of all arts. Juliet Wood interprets Lug's name as deriving from the Celtic root *lugios, oath, making him a god of contracts like Mercury.
In Irish tradition Lug is associated with youth, kingship and healing, and his mastery of all arts suggests he transcends all divine functions. Like his Gaulish counterpart Lugus, he was compared with the archangel Michael.
In fact, the Irish word lugh does not mean ‘shining light’, nor is it related to any Proto-Indo-European root connoting ‘luminosity.’ The claim that it does may arise from confusion with the related Irish word lugha, meaning ‘less’ and cognate with the English words levity and light in the sense of ‘not heavy.’ The Irish word lugh connotes ideas of ‘blasphemy, cussing, lies, bond, joint, binding oath’ (q.v. ). Since all of these notions are semantically hyponyms of the activity of communication, Lugh may plausibly have been a male deification of interaction (). This concept would account for his predecessor’s, Lugus‘s, frequent identification with the god Mercury. Since interaction is a characteristic of many systems and processes, it is little wonder that he was diversely associated with the sun, trade, craftsmanship, tricksters, monarchy and shining light (MacKillop, 199.
FROM: Wikipedia "Lugh"
The Story of Lugh
Lugh was one of the principal gods of the Celts, and was honored over vast areas they inhabited, particularly in the western half of Europe. He is known alternately as Lugh of the Long Arm, or the Master of all Arts, and in some territories as a sun god. One of the four major festivals of the Celtic year was named after Lugh--Lughnasa on August 1. Many European cities began as Celtic centers named after Lugh. Lyons in France was once called Lugdunom, or "Stronghold of Lugh." Carlisle in England was called Luguvallium, "Strong in the God Lugh." Similar is Lugo in northwest Spain, in the region of once Celtic Galicia. Added are early Celtic settlements in Laon and Loudon in France, Leiden in the central part of the Netherlands, and Legnica in Poland, all who honored Lugh in their original namesakes.
Lugh's name varies depending on the locality, e.g., Lug, and on the continent Lugus, and in Wales Lleu. Although he was venerated in mainland Europe, to get a sense of his self and stories, one must rely on the insular Celtic myths of Ireland and Wales. The short sketch below attempts that approach, though there are a multitude of varying stories about him.
To start at the beginning, Lugh was the son of Cian and Ethniu, Cian being a member of the Irish pantheon of gods (called the Tuatha Dé Danann) and Ethniu the daughter of a Fomor giant. Lugh grew to be fair and tall, with yellow hair. Opponents would be nearly blinded by the brilliance of his countenance. Lugh wore a green mantle with a silver brooch, and he owned three priceless possessions. First was his sling, with which he was very skilled in use, earning his nickname "the Long Armed" for his marksmanship in combat. Second was his five-pointed spear that nearly came alive in battle, "tearing through the ranks of the enemy, never tired of slaying." Lugh's third treasured possession was his hound, marvelous for a number of reasons, including its ability to turn whole spring-waters into wine upon taking a dog-bath.
When he first arrived to take his place among the Irish pantheon, the other gods doubted Lugh's veracity. He reported to them his abilities as a champion, a harper, carpenter, smith, poet, druid, physician, bronze-worker, and cupbearer. Not believing him they put Lugh to the test. A challenge was made with the best chess player among the gods. Lugh defeated him, inventing along the way a new move called "Lugh's enclosure." He then lifted and moved an enormous rock, showing superior physical strength. Finally the gods asked him to play the harp, which he did with great ability, performing the three magic strains of sleep, sadness, and merriment. What the gods and goddesses realized, and in time grew to know all the much more, was that Lugh really was "the Master of all Arts," and this nickname too became his over the centuries.
Lugh's arrival at Tara was propitious. The Celtic gods were preparing for war with the Fomor giants. Recognizing Lugh's masterful abilities, the Tuatha Dé Danann's king Nuada lent the throne of the gods to Lugh for thirteen days to plan for the campaign. Lugh called for a council of the gods and heard each of them explain how their skills could contribute in defeating the Fomors. The gods and goddesses agreed to give the generalship of the conflict to Lugh.
Everything was leading up to the famous Battle of Magh Tuiredh, fought in County Sligo, near where the Fomor giants lived. After individual duel combats, a large pitched battle broke out between the gods and the giants. At first the council of gods tried to hold Lugh out of the battle (guarding him with nine warriors), because he was deemed too valuable to risk. But Lugh escaped, and led on the charge. In the heat of battle, a particularly awful Fomor named Balor killed Nuada, the king of the gods. Lugh then shouted a challenge to Balor in vengeance. Balor had a baleful evil eye that was usually shut, but could kill anyone who saw it. Balor said to his Fomor attendant: "Lift up my eyelid that I may see this chatterer who talks to me."
When the eyelid was just half lifted, Lugh used his skills with the sling, and flung a magic stone into Balor's eye, killing him on the spot. The fortunes of the battle turned immediately to the gods' favor. The Fomors wavered, and the gods pinned down a victory, going on to rule Ireland for an era. Lugh himself became king of the Irish gods for a time after the death of Nuada, and later fathered the Celtic hero Cuchulainn.
The Welsh counterpart to Lugh is Lleu of the Dexterous Hand. He was the son of the goddess Arianrod, and reared by the god Gwydion. For a number of reasons, Arianrod denied Lleu a wife, so through magic Gwydion made him a woman made of blossoms. Her name became Blodeuwedd (Flower Face), and "she was the fairest and most graceful that man ever saw." Lleu and Blodeuwedd lived in a palace in Wales, and had many adventures, which we will recount in future articles.
Article by John Patrick Parle
Copyright © 2000
FROM: Celtic Gods and Heros: Celtic Gods of Mainland Europe
God/dess of the Month: Lugh - August 2001 Echoed Voices
In Honour of Lord Lugh - Kindle the Fire
Lugus: The Many-Gifted Lord
Stories, Myth & Legends associated with Lugh:
The Fate of the Children of Turenn
Bres Mac Elatha and the Tuatha Dé Danann
The Second Battle of Magh Tuiredh
The Birth of Cúchulainn
Lugh and Cúchulainn
The Coming of Finn
The Fair of Tailtiu
The Courting of Emer
The Story of the Tuatha De Danann
Deathtales of the Tuatha De Danann
Baile In Scail - The Phantom's Frenzy
Cat-Heads and Dog-Heads
Metrical Dindsenchas - Nas
The Hidden House of Lugh
Lammas Sabbat: facts and misinformation
Lammas - Lughnasadh