Weekly Deity: Eriu

Eriu was an Irish goddess also known as Erin.  She was one of the three queens of the Tuatha De Danaan.  Ireland is supposed to take its name, Éire, from this goddess.


What this goddess was supposed to have looked like is largely unknown.  Female, obviously, and most likely tall and blond like many of her Tuatha De Danaan kin.  But she is not described.  One artist’s portrayal of what we can guess is Eriu is shown above.


Eriu was the daughter of Emmas of the Tuatha De Danaan.  The Tuatha De Danaan are often thought of today as a kind of fairy people, although that’s not exactly accurate.  Tuatha De Danaan means “people of the goddess Danu,” and this race was divine and its people were former rulers of Ireland before they were displaced.

Eriu had two sisters, Banba and Fodla.  When the Milesians arrived from Spain and were going to, of course, set up their own culture with their own names, each of the sisters asked that her name be given to the country.  This was granted, though Eriu became the chief name.  The other two are sometimes used poetically, similar to the way in which Albion is the poetic name of Britain.

She was also the mother of Bres with Prince Elatha of the Fomorians (a giant race), though her husband was Mac Greine, a High King of Ireland along with his three brothers.  Mac Greine and his brothers killed Lug (Lugh) in revenge for their father, Cermait, son of the Dagda.  The brothers were the last of the kings before the Milesians came.  Bres became a king of the Tuatha De Danaan and married Brigid.

Light and Dark Sides

Little is actually known about this goddess other than the small amount of story listed above.  We can probably assume that she is a type of mother goddess, since her name is the principal name for Ireland and as such she could be considered a mother of the land and its people.  But this is only a guess, and so her Light and Dark sides are difficult to discern.

How did her name come to be the chief name for Ireland?  By what means did she overcome her sisters as the right choice?  Was she honorable, or did she cheat?  All this is unknown, and what stories there are about this very subject are not “official” myths of the nature that the Greeks and Romans have “official” myths.  So the Light and Dark side of Eriu can only be guessed at.

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