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Danu is in Irish mythology a purported mother goddess of the Tuatha dé Danann, which includes other deities of the same mythos, such as Brigid, and has often been also associated with the land itself, being similar to the Greek goddess Demeter.[note 1]
The etymology of her name is unclear; some relate her with a pair of Hindu goddesses of the same name that share with the Irish one a strong link with the waters (rivers, etc.) and to be primordial deities, whose name derive of the Proto-Indo-European word for "to run, to flow", which may also lie behind the ancient name for the river Danube, Danuuius – perhaps of Celtic origin, though it is also possible that it is an early Scythian loanword in Celtic.
More recent scholarship rejects the traditional etymologies, and proposes instead that *Danu is derived from the same root as Latin bonus (Old Latin: duenos) from Proto-Indo-European *dueno- ("good"), via a Proto-Celtic nominative singular n-stem *Duonū ("aristocrat").
Danu has no surviving texts or legends associated with her in the Irish lore that was compiled in the Middle Ages, and parallels with other deities and characters of the Irish mythos as Anu, Danand, or from the Welsh mythos Dôn have been proposed.
Like other Celtic deities such as Cernunnos or the already mentioned Brigid, Danu is often present in modern Neopaganism, and even more than others from the same mythos, with so little being known of her, she has often been compared as a blank slate into which to project whatever one wants, including to combine her with other Celtic goddesses, besides Danu's associations with motherhood, fertility, and waters. Modern legends in such regard include one in which her waters nurtured the sacred oak Bile, from which two acorns sprouted giving birth to the deity Dagda and the already mentioned Brigid. Others have claimed she's just Brigid with another name despite the latter being considered a daughter of Danu.
In popular culture
Danu appears in the comic Sláine as the goddess of the Sessair, the tribe to which the protagonist belongs. She's described there as a triple goddess whose aspects are Blodeuwedd, Morrigu (the Morrigan,) and Ceridwen, and being like Nature both nurturing, warm, and delightful but also destructive with her druids offering her human sacrifices that include to disembowel the victims, even if that's okay for such goddess as they'll go back to the Circle of Life, and be married to the Horned God.
- ↑ "Danu herself probably represented the earth and its fruitfulness, and one might compare her with the Greek Demeter. All the other gods are, at least by title, her children." — Squire (1905)
- ↑ Squire, Charles (November 2007). Celtic Myth and Legend, Poetry and Romance (pub. domain reprint ed.). Forgotten Books. p. 34. ISBN 978-137500959-1.
- ↑ Koch, John, ed (2006). Celtic Culture: A historical encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 569.
- ↑ Hamp, Eric (2002). "The Dag(h)d(h)ae and his relatives". Donum Grammaticum: Studies in Latin and Celtic linguistics in honour of Hannah Rosen. Peeters. pp. 163–169.
- ↑ Macalister, R.A. Stewart, ed (1941) (in Old Irish, English). Lebor Gabála Érenn. Dublin, IE: Irish Texts Society / Educational Company of Ireland.
- ↑ Bartrum, Peter C. (1993). A Welsh Classical Dictionary: People in history and legend up to about A.D. 1000. Aberystwyth, Wales: National Library of Wales. p. 230-231.
- ↑ Primordial Garden: Great Mother Danu & Bile the Sacred Oak. journeysinotherworlds.wordpress.com.
- ↑ Danu, Great River Goddess. herstory.ie, 19 June 2019.
- ↑ Danu