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Literal meaning: ‘the good god’. The ancient Irish deity of life and death; with one end of his staff he could kill nine men, but with the other end he restored them to life. Dagda was chief of the Tuatha De Danann, and a mighty aid to these mythical peoples at the Second Battle of Mag Tuired. He was Aed, ‘fire’; Ollathair, ‘all-father’; Ruad Rofessa, ‘lord of great knowledge’; and the god of druidism or magic, draidecht. Among his sacred possessions were an inexhaustible cauldron, two marvellous swine—one always roasting, the other always growing—and ever-laden fruit trees.

His daughter was Brigit, goddess of fire, fertility, cattle, and poetry. She appears in Gallic and British inscriptions as Brigindo and Briganta; aspects of her personality passed to St Brigit (453–523), especially generosity. The Christian saint drove her father to despair, so freely did she hand out family property to the poor. Her good wishes were legendary: ‘a great lake of ale of the King of Kings’; ‘the family of heaven drinking it through all time’; ‘Jesus to be among these cheerful folk’; and ‘vessels full of arms to be given away’. St Brigit's Day is in fact the old festival of spring.

Subjects: Religion

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