Monday, May 1, 2023

The Four Treasures of Ireland

In early Irish literature, there are three texts that each refer to four special objects. These are the Four Treasures of Ireland, sometimes called the Four Treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann because they were brought to Ireland when the Tuatha—according to the Lebor Gabála Érenn or the Book of the Taking of Ireland, also known as The Book of Invasions—came from the north to Ireland on dark clouds.

The legend says they came from four cities, and from each they brought a treasure.

From the city of Falias they brought the Stone of Fál, that would cry out when the rightful king of Ireland sat on it. It was on the Hill of Tara, and mentioned here.

From Gorias came the Spear of Lugh. The man who wielded it never lost, nor did the army of the wielder. Lugh was a mythological figure associated with war and the arts. The harvest festival Lughnasadh on 1 August is named for him.

The Sword of Light from the city Findias was another weapon. Once drawn from its sheath against a foe, that foe could not win. It belonged to Nuada (literally "champion"), the first king of the Tuatha, one of whose significant stories is the loss of an arm in battle that gets replaced with one of silver.

The final treasure was the Cauldron of Dagda from Murias. Dagda was a king, a druid, and a father-figure. The Cauldron never ran out of food. No one ever left unsatisfied after eating from the cauldron. It is also said that paired with it was a ladle that was so big it took two men to lift it. (He also owned a harp that could influence the listerner's emotions and change the seasons, but that's not enough to be a treasure, I guess.)

The Four Treasures (sometimes called the Four Jewels) appear in the stories of battles and adventures involving the Tuatha, who eventually disappear from the scene with the arrival of the Milesians, going underground and becoming the supernatural entities that provide much folklore.

Who were the Tuatha? Their presence in literature is so pervasive that they deserve some attention. It would be impossible to "tell their story" in the confines of a short post on a daily blog, but we can at least take a stab at their literary origin. See you next time.

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