Anu (AH-noo)

Since the first Irish texts were being translated, there has been a confusion between the figures of Anu and Danu; both have been listed as a "mother of the Irish gods". However, this is not entirely accurate, but a confusion which has existed since at least the eleventh century, with the composition of Lebor Gabla renn, which saw the beginning of confusion and conflation with three figures: Anand, Danand, and Morrigan.

It has been argued--very convincingly--that while many people believe that there was a goddess Danu who was mother of the Irish gods--hense the name Tuatha D Danann--there is no textual evidence for this. To begin with, *Danu is a hypotheical reconstruction from the possessive "Danann". However, the goddess named Danand who appears in the LGE is not given as the mother of all the gods (impossibly anyway, since the text has been overwhelmingly euhemerized), but as the mother of "Brian, Iuchar, and Iucharba, the three gods of the Tuatha D Danann" and the three sons (usually) of Delbaeth/Turill. However, confusion sets in, as in some redactions of the text, their mother is given as Morrigan, in others as Brigit. Morrigan is then given as the title for a goddess named Anand (sometimes Anann), for whom the two mountains in Munster, Da Chich Anann--the Breasts of Anu--are named.

Meanwhile, according to the ninth century text of Sanas Cormaic, Anand is listed as "mother of the Irish gods." Again, in the LGE, Anand is one of the trio of sisters named Badb, Macha, and Anand. In one redaction, Macha is identified with the figure of Morrigan, while in another, Anand is identified as Morrigan. As "Morrigan" is thought to mean either "mare queen" or "great queen," it is difficult to say which she may be. Macha is elsewhere identified with horses (as are the Welsh goddess Rhiannon and the Gallic goddess Epona), while Anand is clearly refered to as the mother of the gods. Of course, the Morrigan is also sometimes thought to refer to all three sisters, and perhaps like the triple goddess Brigit, these are all one and the same goddess. This is likely, as Brigit is also identified as the mother of Brian, Iuchar, and Iuchabar.

So it is possible to assume, then, that Anand, as the Morrigan, was the mother of the Tuatha D Danann; however, she is not the same as Danand, which is a later conflation. She is also, of course, the goddess of sovereignty, who the king of the land must marry in order to gain a legitimate claim to power. As such, she is symbolized by the horse, which then equates her to Rhiannon, Macha, and Epona.

We must also pay attention to the later figure of Aine Cli, listed as daughter of Manannn mac Lr and protective goddess of Munster. Like Anu, she is also associated with a mountain in Munster, Cnoc Aine, and a healing well, Tobar-Na-Aine, and like Brigit is associated with poetry. She is likely a later variation on Anand/Anu.

Finally, what is worth noting is that this name appears in Welsh genealogies as Anna or Ana--and here is a varation on the name Don--she is listed as the wife or mother of Beli (and thus is mother of the Welsh gods), but also as the cousin/kinswoman of the Virgin Mary. This can be attributed to several factors:

  • A desire to link the Britons with both the Jews and early Christians, which is demonstrated in other places1
  • The suggestive name "Anna" which appears in pseudopigrapha as the name of the mother of the Virgin Mary.

    However, the later identification of Ana with Dn--mother of Plant Dn--is again a case of conflation; outside of some of the later genealogies, there is very little textual reason to identify Anu with Danu and Ana with Dn. However, the following may be true: According to the Harlian MS3958, Beli was founder of the Gwynedd line and husband to Anna, "their mother [of the Gwynedd line of kings], who they say was a cousin of the Virgin Mary, mother of our lord Jesus Christ." This is interesting for several reasons: first being that in the Mabinogion, most of the activity of the sons of Dn happen in Gwynedd, where her brother Math is king. Math never appears in the genealogies for Gwynedd, but Dn may, in fact, be Anna. The reasoning is that, perhaps influenced by the Irish confusion between Danu/Danann and Anu, there was also this confusion between Don and Anna. "Anna" is also the name given to Arthur's sister in Geoffrey's history, while tradition names her Morgan Le Fay (probably related to the Irish Morrigan; and as we've seen, there may be a common confusion of origin between Danu, Anu, and Morrigan). Moreover, Danu/Anu is also confused in some rescentions of the Lebor Gabala Erren with Brigid; Brigid, when "reformed" into St. Brigit, was then made the wet-nurse of Jesus and a cousin of Mary. What we may then be seeing in the genealogies is the "reformation" of Dn/Anna in the same way Brigid was. As such, her relationship with Beli Mawr would then, according to these genalogies, make them the ancestors of the entire Gwynedd line, and as such parent gods.


    Bartrum, P.C. Early Welsh Genealogical Tracts. Cardiff: UWP, 1964.

    Kondratiev, Alexei. "Danu and Bile: The Primordial Parents?" An Trbhs Mhr: The IMBAS Journal of Celtic Reconstructionism. Vol. 1, No. 4, Bealtaine 1998. URL:

    Lebor Gabla renn, parts IV and V. ed. by R.A.S. MacAlister. Irish Texts Society Vols. XLI and XLIV. Dublin, 1941, 1956.

    The lost books of the Bible. ed. William Hone, trans. Jeremiah Jones. originally published in 1820. New York: The World Pub. Co., 1926.

    Maier, Bernhard. Dictionary of Celtic Religion and Culture. Rochester, N.Y. : Boydell Press, 1997.

    1. Other examples of the Irish and Welsh attempting to show a close connection between their races and the Jews and early Christians:

  • Equating the Lia Fail/Stone of Scone with Jacob's Pillow
  • Making Temhair (Tara), the goddess of the hill, a granddaughter of the prophet Jeremiah.
  • Bedigedfran becoming Brons the brother-in-law of Jospeh of Arimathea.
  • Numerous genelogical ties, such as the above, as well as through to David, Solomon, always Noah, etc.

    The grail romances are also guilty of such things, making Lancelot and Galahad decendants of Joseph of Arimathea

    Back to "A" | Back to JCE

    Mary Jones 2009