LUGH OF THE LONG HAND, MASTER OF ALL ARTS
Updated: Feb 11
There are lots of references to Lugh’s Knot on the web, and it seems to be particularly popular in jewellery making. If Celtic Knots really are symbols with specific meanings, as some claim them to be, it can be hard to get a definitive answer as to what they represent. Perhaps we need to take a closer look at Lugh himself to work out the hidden meaning behind Lugh’s Knot.
Lugh (pronounced Loo) is arguably one of the most well known and best loved of the Irish mythological characters. He was a Druid, a High King, and a warrior.
Born to Cian (son of Dian Cecht) of the Tuatha de Danann, an ancient supernatural race which ruled Ireland over four thousand years ago, and Eithne, daughter of Balor, Giant-King of the evil Fomori race, he became known as Lugh Lámhfhada (pronounced La-wa-tha), which meant ‘of the long arm’, due to his prowess with the throwing spear and sling.
He also went on the earn the title Samildanach (pronounced sow-ill-danah), which meant ‘equally skilled in all arts’, as he could turn his hand to anything and make a success of it.
As a child, Lugh was fostered by Queen Tailtiu of the Fir Bolg, another race defeated by the Tuatha de Danann. It is said that Lugh held his foster mother in great esteem, and that when she died, he set up the festival of Lughnasadh on August 1st in her honour.
This took place every year in what is now known as Teltown in Co Meath, and involved horse races, Irish martial arts contests, feats of sportsmanship, and all manner of feasting, trading and entertainment. As a result, Lúnasa become the Irish name for the month of August.
As a young man, Lugh chose to leave the court of his foster mother and seek his fortune with his own people, the Danann. He joined them in the Second Battle of Moytura against his grandfather’s people, the Fomori, in which his grandfather, Balor, slew the High King Nuada.
Distraught, Lugh turned on Balor, killing him with a spear through the eye. Some versions of the story claim the weapon was a sling, not a spear. He went on to become High King, and ruled Ireland for forty years.
He had two wives (not at the same time…so far as we know!), Buí and Nás, both daughters of Ruadri, King of Britain. When Buí died, she was buried at Knowth, part of the Newgrange complex, which was originally known as Cnoc Buí, meaning ‘the hill of Buí’.
Nás was buried at Naas in Co. Kildare, which, as you can see, is still named after her. Lugh had a son with Nás, named Ibic. Interestingly, Lugh is reputed to be the father of the great Irish hero, Cúchulain with a mortal woman named Deichtine.
Lugh had many strange and wonderful possessions. Besides his special spear, and his sling, he also carried the sea god, Manannán mac Lir’s sword, Fragarach. In fact, some say Manannan fostered Lugh and looked on him favourably, because he also lent him his horse, Aonbharr, who could mover over water as easily as over land, and his boat, Wave-Sweeper, which could be navigated without a crew.
Unfortunately, Lugh’s golden reign as High King came to a sad end because of a illicit love triangle. One of his wives (which one, legend doesn’t tell us) had an affair with Cermait, son of the Dagda. The two men fought, and Cermait was killed. Seeking revenge for their father’s death, Cermait’s three sons came after Lugh, and killed him (some say drowned) at Lough Lugh, on the summit of the HIll of Uisneach.
In Victorian times, Lugh was considered to be a sun deity, a God of Light and the harvest. Recent scholars think it is more likely his name means something like ‘Lightning Flash’. For some reason, this interpretation resonates with me; I can just see him as the herald of the storm, bringing the rain to wet the parched ground and prepare it for another year’s planting.
But what does Lugh's Knot actually mean? There is no definitive answer; I can only offer my opinion.
Lugh was revered for being multi-skilled and talented; he was a fine and brave warrior, was good to his (foster) mother; a just and noble King; he played the harp, was a healer, a druid, a poet and a sorcerer; he was skilled in the forge, was a good builder and carpenter, and a great horseman. He loved to have fun, and is said to have invented many ball games, and the Irish board game known as Fidchell.
I think the fact that he was born noble but was not afraid to work alongside the simple tradesman would have made him beloved of the ordinary folk. He tried his hand at everything, which suggests he was not afraid to fail, yet was confident in his capabilities. I think there is a lesson there for all of us, and these are all qualities Lugh’s Knot represents for me.
with grateful thanks for kind use of their beautiful image of Lugh
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