The Dagda (Irish: An Dagda) is an important god in Irish mythology. One of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the Dagda is portrayed as a father-figure, king, and druid. He is associated with fertility, agriculture, manliness and strength, as well as magic, druidry and wisdom. He can control life and death, the weather and crops, as well as time and the seasons.
He is often described as a large bearded man or giant wearing a hooded cloak. He owns a magic staff, club, or mace (the lorg mór or lorg anfaid), of dual nature: it kills with one end and brings to life with the other. He also owns a cauldron (the coire ansic) which never runs empty, and a magic harp (uaithne) which can control men's emotions and change the seasons. He is said to dwell in Brú na Bóinne (Newgrange). Other places associated with or named after him include Uisneach, Grianan of Aileach, and Lough Neagh. The Dagda is said to be husband of the Morrígan and lover of Boann. His children include Aengus, Brigit, Bodb Derg, Cermait, Aed, and Midir.
The Dagda's name is thought to mean "the good god" or "the great god". His other names include Eochu or Eochaid Ollathair ("horseman, great father" or "all-father"), Ruad Rofhessa ("mighty one/lord of great knowledge") and Dáire ("the fertile one"). The death and ancestral god Donn may originally have been a form of the Dagda, and he also has similarities with the later harvest figure Crom Dubh. Several tribal groupings saw the Dagda as an ancestor and were named after him, such as the Uí Echach and the Dáirine.
The Dagda has been likened to the Germanic god Odin, the Gaulish god Sucellos, and the Roman god Dīs Pater.
Tales depict the Dagda as a figure of immense power. He is said to own a magic staff, club or mace which could kill nine men with one blow; but with the handle he could return the slain to life. It was called the lorg mór ("the great staff/club/mace") or the lorg anfaid ("the staff/club/mace of wrath"). His magic cauldron was known as the coire ansic ("the undry cauldron") and was said to be bottomless, from which no man left unsatisfied. It was said to have a ladle so big that two people could fit in it. Uaithne, also known as "the Four Angled Music", was a richly ornamented magic harp made of oak which, when the Dagda played it, put the seasons in their correct order; other accounts tell of it being used to command the order of battle. He possessed two pigs, one of which was always growing whilst the other was always roasting, and ever-laden fruit trees. He also described as being the owner of a black-maned heifer that was given to him for his labors prior to the Second Battle of Moytura. When the heifer calls her calf, all the cattle of Ireland taken by the Fomorians as tribute graze.
The Dagda was one of the kings of the Tuatha De Danann. The Tuatha Dé Danann are the race of supernatural beings who conquered the Fomorians, who inhabited Ireland previously, prior to the coming of the Milesians. The Mórrígan is often described as his wife, his daughter was Brígh, and his lover was Boann, after whom the River Boyne is named, though she was married to Elcmar. Prior to the battle with the Fomorians, he coupled with the goddess of war, the Mórrígan, on Samhain in exchange for a plan of battle.
Despite his great power and prestige, the Dagda is sometimes depicted as oafish and crude, even comical, wearing a short, rough tunic that barely covers his rump, dragging his great penis on the ground. Such features are thought to be the additions of Christian redactors for comedic purposes. The Middle Irish language Coir Anmann (The Fitness of Names) paints a less clownish picture: "He was a beautiful god of the heathens, for the Tuatha Dé Danann worshiped him: for he was an earth-god to them because of the greatness of his (magical) power."
The Dagda has similarities with the later harvest figure Crom Dubh.
The Dagda is said to be husband of the Morrígan, who is called his "envious wife"] His children include Aengus, Cermait, and Aed (often called the three sons of the Dagda), Brigit and Bodb Derg.He is said to have two brothers, Nuada and Ogma, but this may be an instance of the tendency to triplicate deities. Elsewhere the Dagda is linked exclusively with Ogma, and the two are called "the two brothers." In the Dindsenchas, the Dagda is given a daughter named Ainge, for whom he makes a twig basket or tub that always leaks when the tide is in and never leaks when it is going out. The Dagda's father is named Elatha son of Delbeath. Englec, the daughter of Elcmar, is named as a consort of the Dagda and the mother of his "swift son". Echtgi the loathsome is another daughter of the Dagda's named in the Banshenchas.
Before the Second Battle of Maig Tuired the Dagda built a fortress for Bres called Dún Brese and was also forced by the Fomorian kings Elatha, Indech, and Tethra to build raths. In the lead up to the Second Battle of Maig Tuired, when Lugh asks Dagda what power he will wield over the Fomorian host, he responds that he "[…] will take the side of the men of Erin both in mutual smiting and destruction and wizardry. Their bones under my club will be as many as hailstones under feet of herds of horses."
The Dagda had an affair with Bóand, wife of Elcmar. In order to hide their affair, Dagda made the sun stand still for nine months; therefore their son, Aengus, was conceived, gestated and born in one day. He, along with Bóand, helped Aengus search for his love.
Whilst Aengus was away the Dagda shared out his land among his children, but Aengus returned to discover that nothing had been saved for him. Aengus later tricked his father out of his home at the Brú na Bóinne (Newgrange). Aengus asked his father if he could live in the Brú for láa ogus oidhche "(a) day and (a) night", which in Irish is ambiguous, and could refer to either "a day and a night", or "day and night", which means for all time, and so Aengus took possession of the Brú permanently. In The Wooing of Étaín, on the other hand, Aengus uses the same ploy to trick Elcmar out of Brú na Bóinne, with the Dagda's connivance.
The Dagda was also the father of Bodb Dearg, Cermait, Midir, Áine, and Brigit. He was the brother of Oghma, who is probably related to the Gaulish god Ogmios; Ogmios, depicted as an old man with a club, is one of the closest Gaulish parallels to the Dagda. Another Gaulish god who may be related to the Dagda is Sucellus, the striker, depicted with a hammer and cup.
He is credited with a seventy- or eighty-year reign (depending on source) over the Tuatha Dé Danann, before dying at the Brú na Bóinne, finally succumbing to a wound inflicted by Cethlenn during the second battle of Magh Tuiredh.
In a poem about Mag Muirthemne, the Dagda banishes an octopus with his "mace of wrath" using the following words: "Turn thy hollow head! Turn thy ravening body! Turn thy resorbent forehead! Avaunt! Begone!", the sea receded with the creature and the plain of Mag Muirthemne was left behind.
In the Dindsenchas the Dagda is described as swift with a poison draught and as a justly dealing lord. He is also called a King of Erin with hosts of hostages, a noble, slender prince, and the father of Cermait, Aengus, and Aed.