Other Spellings: Danann, Danand
Associations: rivers, motherhood, fertility
Land Specific Associations: “the Danube from *Danuouios, the Rhône from *Rodanos (with the intensive particle ro-), the Dniester from *Danu-Nazdya, the Dnieper from *Danu-Apara, the several rivers Don in Britain and Russia, and more.” (Ravenna, page 103.)
Known and Suspected Family: possible sons Goibniu, Crédne, and Luctha; the entire Túatha Dé Danann as children, husband Delbaeth
Etymology: possibly “river”
- Lebor Gabála Érenn / The Book of the Takings of Ireland / The Book of Invasions
Whether Danu or Danann exists at all is up for scholarly debate. The name may just be a confusion for the name Anu or Anann. Morpheus Ravenna writes,
“The name Danann does not appear in any textual source earlier than the Lebor Gabála materials beginning in the 11th century, and here it is thought possible that it was introduced as a linguistic accident. In early Irish, similarities between the sounds of words such as nAnann “of Anu”and nDanann “of *Danu” could have introduced the confusion at the time the tales were being compiled.” (page 104.)
As for the argument that Danu exists because Túatha Dé Danann can mean “People of Goddess Danu”, it is also likely that Túatha Dé Danann means “people of the Gods of skill.” This is because the old Irish word for “skill, art, or gift” is dána.
Due to both these pieces of evidence, and the fact that *Danu does not exist elsewhere in lore, some scholars and polytheists outright dismiss the historical existence of a goddess named Danu.
However, there are traces of her name in etymology and in place-names, especially in other areas of Proto-Indo-European languages. Ravenna writes,
“I think, then, if we look beyond Cormac’s imaginative glosses and the confused patchwork of the Lebor Gabála Érenn 3rd recension, the Irish *Danu emerges as a memory of a very ancient primal ancestres, river Goddess, source of wisdom and knowledge, and mother of the tribe of Gods. It seems to me that the literary artifact is not the invention of either *Danu or Anu, but their question with one another in the context of an artificially rationalized, systematized, pseudo-historical narrative. The reader should note, of course, that some scholars differ from me on this.” (page 106.)
Regardless if Danu “existed” in history or not does not negate people worshiping Danu in modern day. In my (Allec) opinion, I definitely think that some entity named Danu is answering all these people who are calling out to her. So whether she is “historical”, while an intriguing debate, she does exist now.
Daimler, Morgan. The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queens. N.p.: Moon, 2014. Print.
Ravenna, Morpheus. The Book of the Great Queen. Richmond CA: Concrescent, 2015. Print.
- “Danu” by Mary Jones