I never set out to get involved with deities which belong to different branches of Celtic culture – Irish, Gaulish, Brythonic – but I also never thought that I shouldn’t. As the latest saying goes, “The gods call whom they call.” So that’s a done deal. And what with my interest in mythology, things have become deliciously complicated – and yet perfectly comfortable.
The past couple of years, as I’ve read more and more Irish and Brythonic myths and folktales, I’ve found myself picking up odd little curiosities, popping them into my basket of findings, and continuing along the paths. While teaching the Celtic Myths and Deities course twice in quick succession, and moderating a couple of Mabinogi discussion groups in the past few months, I’ve had plenty of reasons to look more closely at some of those findings.
Most of us accept that there is some kind of connection between Lugos, Lugh, and Lleu, but that connection is difficult to interpret, and some of us won’t see it as important. It’s increasingly important to me, because getting deeper into these mysteries seems to bring me a lot closer to both deities.
For me, the Irish folktales about Lugh and Balor provided an important bridge – as they have similarities to both The Second Battle of Mag Tuired, and to The Fourth Branch of The Mabinogi. These connections were only tickling at the edges of my consciousness until I really looked at the tales of Lugh and Balor.
I was carried
From Eithne’s tower
In the otherworld
I was nine times fostered
I was enchanted
Before my birth
By Math I was formed
From ninefold elements
I was a builder,
A smith, a champion,
A harper of three noble strains,
A sorcerer to shake mountains
I was a skilled one
A poet, a shoemaker,
A string in a harp,
A shield in battle
If it sounds like I’m putting a negative spin on Lugh/Lleu, I’m not. On the other hand, I’m not saying that the behaviour of deities in myths is there as a model for our own. That’s a dangerously simplistic view of things. Lugh, who is given more scope to act in the Irish stories than Lleu is in the Mabinogi, makes a fine war leader and hero. However, in his personal life he’s, shall we say, uncompromising. Think of The Fate of the Sons of Tuireann, or that He killed Cermait for dalliance with his wife (even though it turns out Cermait was innocent). According to the Dindshenchas, that was Lugh’s undoing.
Lleu, too, refused to allow Gronw to pay an honour price for his transgressions, and killed him outright. The Grave Stanzas also say of Lleu, “He was a man who invited attack.” What lessons should we learn from this? Perhaps, make sure that’s the hill you want to die on.
If anything, the time I’ve spent reading and researching and writing has made me feel closer to both deities. To feel a warmth toward Lleu, especially, that I never felt before. And, yes, I definitely still see them as two deities. That part is hard to explain. It’s as if they are somehow superimposed on one another. A double exposure. The two tracks that make the nice stereo effect. Separate, but sounding as one.
Lugh Lleu is available now. It contains three prose tales and five previously unpublished poems, along with bibliographical notes for those who would like to know my sources.
A collection of prose and poetry about two intertwined gods. This is a literary approach based on scholarship, so I have included bibliographical notes for those who want them.
8.5" x 5.5"