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Lug Lámfhota


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[OIr. lug, light, brightness; lámhfhada, long-armed, long-handed].

May also bear the patronymics mac Céin, mac Ethlenn, Maicnia, and the epithets Samildánach and lldánach. Celebrated chief of the Tuatha Dé Danann and central hero of the Mythological Cycle of early Irish literature; one of the three great heroes of Irish tradition, along with Fionn mac Cumhaill and Cúchulainn, whose supernatural father he is. Lug's usual agnomen, Lámfhada [long-armed], testifies to an ability to hurl a weapon a long distance or to use a sling, not to the actual length of his arm. His usual sobriquet, Samildánach [possessing many arts, crafts, trades], also Ildánach, suggests he may also have been a fili or seer. Another patronymic was Maicnia [lad-warrior]. Although Lug may originally have been a god of the sun or of light, he was still thought to be historical as late as the 19th century. The ancient Luigni of what is now Counties Meath and Sligo claimed descent from him. Much of Lug's story is told in the 11th-century text (based on earlier materials) Cath Maige Tuired [The (Second) Battle of Mag Tuired], in which he kills Balor, coincidentally his grandfather. A close counterpart and possible double of the Welsh Lleu Llaw Gyffes [W, light of the sure/steady hand], Lug appears to share a divine origin with Fionn [Ir., fair] and Cúchulainn, both of whom may be his doubles.

Lug appears to be identical with the Gaulish Mercury, modern commentators agree, for two reasons: (a) Julius Caesar's (1st cent. bc) description of Mercury ‘inventor of all the arts’ translates Lug's sobriquet Samildánach; (b) the name Lugos/Lugus for Mercury is implicit in several place-names, e.g. Lug(u)-dunum, which survive as Leiden, Lyon, Liegnitz, etc. At the Roman colony of what is now Lyon, Emperor Augustus inaugurated a festival on the first day of August, an anticipation of the later Irish August festival of Lughnasa. Aspects of Lug's persona suggest even deeper rooting in the Indo-European imagination. Lámfhada [long-armed], for example, echoes the epithet of the Indian god Savitar, ‘of the wide hand’. Lug's use of magic links him with both the Indian Varuna and the Norse Odin. Commentators disagree whether the cult arrived early or late in Ireland, but by the time of Christ he was the patron of a harvest festival at Tailtiu [Teltown, Co. Meath].

(a) Julius Caesar's (1st cent. bc) description of Mercury ‘inventor of all the arts’ translates Lug's sobriquet Samildánach; (b) the name Lugos/Lugus for Mercury is implicit in several place-names, e.g. Lug(u)-dunum, which survive as Leiden, Lyon, Liegnitz, etc. At the Roman colony of what is now Lyon, Emperor Augustus inaugurated a festival on the first day of August, an anticipation of the later Irish August festival of Lughnasa. Aspects of Lug's persona suggest even deeper rooting in the Indo-European imagination. Lámfhada [long-armed], for example, echoes the epithet of the Indian god Savitar, ‘of the wide hand’. Lug's use of magic links him with both the Indian Varuna and the Norse Odin. Commentators disagree whether the cult arrived early or late in Ireland, but by the time of Christ he was the patron of a harvest festival at Tailtiu [Teltown, Co. Meath].

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Subjects: Religion.


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