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Freitag, 13. Januar 2012

Anann – An Irish Mother Goddess

Anann, or Anu, who appears to Her followers in the form of a white swan, is often described as being the mother of all Irish gods. Her name is said to mean “plenty” or “wealth,” and Ireland itself is referred to as Iath nAnann, the land of Anu (Woodfield 2011: 83). Thus Anann is the supreme goddess of Ireland, it seems – or is She?
When you check the sources available to a Pagan seeker – be it on the internet or in books – you inevitably find confusion about Anann, i.e. what Her true name really is,  who She is and if She exists at all, and also which connections She has to other goddesses in the Celtic pantheon. 

For me, at least, Anann’s existence is undoubted. However, this does not always seem to be as clear-cut a case. For example, Mara Freeman (2001: 82f.) in her book “Kindling the Celtic Spirit” equates Anann (or as she calls Her, Anu) with the goddess Danu. For Freeman, and no doubt for many other believers, Danu is seen as one river goddess among many in the Celtic pantheon. She is linked to the Danube river and is possibly also related to the Indian goddess Dānu, whose name means “Stream; Waters of Heaven.” This would make Danu a pan-Indo-European goddess who has been equated with Anu.

However, as is stressed in an online encyclopaedia, *Danu is just a hypothetical construction from the possessive form Danand. Yet Danand, who appears in the Lebor Gabála Érenn, isn’t described as the mother of all gods. So, the encyclopaedia makes clear, Danu and Anann are not the same person, at all.
But is the matter clear now? Far from it.   

While the Sanas Cormaic, a glossary from the ninth century, lists Anann as indeed being the mother of all gods, Woodfield (2011: 84) in her book on the Morrighan stresses that Cormac is from Munster, hence he might have equated the earth goddess he was most familiar with, i.e. Anann, with the mother of all gods.
In contrast, the Lebor Gabála Érenn equates Her with being part of a trinity formed by Badb and Macha, going by the communal name of the Morrighan (see e.g. Rankine/D’Este 2005: 138, incidentally, a book about the Morrighan’s different guises). Yet in other sources, the name Morrighan appears to have been used as a title for Anann only, meaning something like “Great Queen” or “Great Mare.” From my unverified personal gnosis I come to believe that the Morrighan and Anann are two distinct goddesses, but since this is no actual proof in the matter, let us look for further evidence.

This is a difficult feat to accomplish, however, since additional information on Anann is scarce. Most sources mention Her being connected to two mountains in Munster, Co. Kerry, named Dá Chich Anann or the Paps of Anu. These hills, looking from the distance like breasts, are understood to be the nourishing breasts of the goddess. As this clearly hints to Anann being connected to the earth, the fact might further underline the claim that Anann and Danu, who is essentially a river goddess, are not the same goddess at all (Woodfield 2011: 84). 

Another goddess figure by a similar name, Aine Cli, daughter of Manannán Mac Lír, is also associated with a mountain in Munster and seen as Munster’s protective goddess. But Jones’ Celtic Encyclopedia makes it clear that Aine is a later conflation with the figure of Anann.
Apart from this, when you research on the internet, the same information keeps repeating itself, often word-for word; let me summarize these bits and pieces:
  • Anann is a – if not the – Mother Goddess and is associated with fertility
  • fires were lit for Her at midsummer
  • Her priestesses taught and comforted the dying
  • She is the Maiden aspect of a Triple Goddess/the Morrighan
  • She appears in the form of a swan, an expression of purity and grace
  • She is associated with wells and water
As interesting and intuitively true as these “facts” may sound, my problem with these sources is that they don’t cite any references for their claims. As I am about to start my PhD, checking facts and making sure they come from a trustworthy source is very important to me; hence, I find it difficult to believe some facts I come across online. This is especially so when said internet sources seem to include some logical incongruence. One e-book I found claimed that Christendom turned the goddess Anann into an old hag to discourage belief in Her, but at the same time also made Her a saint “to smooth the part of conversion.” I wonder if both can be true at the same time, or if a certain amount of Christian-bashing went into these alleged facts. 

So what are we going to do when we seek to establish a connection with Anann? Speaking from a purely non-scientific, personal perspective now, I find that it is still possible to attune to Her energies through prayer, but other than the internet sources cited above, I feel Her presence the strongest at the autumn equinox. Even before I learned about Anann and the Celtic path, I often wrote poetry including images of Ireland and swans, hence the image of Anann as a swan speaks strongly to me. I also incorporated a small swan figurine in the altar I maintain in Her honour.

So, as a conclusion, what we can learn from research like the one I attempted here is that while some conflations can be revealed by a close study of the sources available to us, sometimes in the end it is up to ourselves to decide who to call on and which name to use when praying to our Gods and Goddesses.

Blessed be,


Freeman, Mara. 2001. Kindling the Celtic Spirit. New York: HarperCollins.
Rankine, David and Sorita D’Este. 2005. The Guises of the Morrighan. Irish Goddess of Sex and Battle: Her Myths, Powers & Mysteries. London: Avalonia.
Woodfield, Stephanie. 2011. Celtic Lore and Spellcraft of the Dark Goddess: Invoking the Morrighan. Woodbury: Llewellyn.

internet sources:
Jones’ Celtic Encyclopedia: http://www.maryjones.us/jce/anu.html
Singleton, Judy. “Anu Celtic Goddess of Fertility”: http://www.cyber-spy.com/ebooks/ebooks/Anu-Celtic-Goddess-of-Fertility-%28ebook%29.pdf (note: this source is representative for many other pages on the internet listing basically the same facts; I chose this one as reference because it is easiest to read concerning the layout)

Anu drawing: http://www.cauldronnetwork.com/articles/0509/Anu.jpg
Paps of Anu photo: http://www.goddessalive.co.uk/issue3/images/paps_anu.jpg]

3 Kommentare:

  1. Wow I love your level of scholarship. My background is in science so I really appreciate you citing and weighing of your sources. This was a very interesting post too! Thank you

  2. I agree with Velody, defo a very well written and well thought post. I am glad you clarified the connection or lack of one between Anu and Danu, I have always wondered if the two were the one in the same, now I see they are most likely not. Look forward to your posts!

  3. Wow!!! I really loved this article and will be sharing with others. Extremely insightful and well written. Thank you!!