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HIST & MYTH: Irish Deity: Dian Cécht – God of Healing

Written by Ben Kesp 
Irish History & Myth Collection
Dian Cécht - God of Healing or God of Power and Health for the Tuatha Dé Danann, the race of Ireland’s ancient gods, can be said from the murky visibility of Irish mythology to have been the brother to: Dagda (Father of the Gods and God of Earth), Lir (Sea God), Nuada (King of the Danann) and Ogma (Champion of the Danann). He was the physician and healer to the Danann, saving their warriors during times of battle. He has been accredited with many feats and his healing powers were invoked in Ireland as late as the 8th century. Numerous cures and spells are associated with him, in addition to his gift as an oracle or foreseer. 

Through his first marriage, he had three children: Miach, Airmed and Étan. On his second marriage to Danu he had a son named Cian who would later marry Ethlinn, daughter of the notorious Fomorian King, Balor. Cian was the father of the Sun God & Storm God, Lugh - saviour of the Danann and Lugh would later father the Irish legendary hero Cu Chulainn

Dian Cécht once saved Ireland from the risk of being depopulated by three serpents. Dagda, the father of the gods and his wife, the Morrígan (Goddess of War, Death and Rebirth) had a child that was so evil in its appearance that Dian Cécht passed the motion that the child should be killed in infancy. On doing so, Dian opened the infants’ heart to find three serpents inside that would depopulate Ireland when they would fully grow. He destroyed the serpents by burning them and cast their ashes into a river that boiled, killing every creature within it. The river became known as the River Barrow, the second longest river in Ireland after the River Shannon. The River Barrow is known as one of The Three Sisters with the other two rivers called the River Suir and the River Nore

When Nuada, King of the Danann lost his arm in the First Battle of Moytura against the Fir Bolgs, he was seen by the Danann as imperfect to be King. As a result King Bres, (half Danann: half Fomorian) was chosen to be the next King and the Danann suffered under his rule. They longed for Nuada to be returned to power. Dian succeeded in replacing Nuada’s arm with a silver replacement and Nuada was reinstated to the throne giving Nuada the name of the “Silver Arm”. However Dian became jealous and envious of his son Miach who later replaced Nuada’s original arm with the help of his sister Airmed, with a combination of magic and surgery. Miach was equally as gifted as his father, if not better. Dian killed his son and following his burial, magical herbs grew over his grave. His sister Airmed tried to categorise the herbs but in her father’s anger, Dian dispersed the herbs destroying her work, leaving the healing properties of the herbs unknown today. 

Dian’s other two children were Étan who was a poet and Cian, son of Danu, who married Ethlinn, daughter of Balor of the Fomorians. The marriage between Cian and Ethlinn sealed a peace treaty between the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Fomorians following the First Battle of Mag Turied (Moytura) against the Fir Bolgs. Relations were at first peaceful with the Fomorians however it was short lived. 

Today, buried deep within Heapstown Cairn in Co. Sligo is Dian Cécht’s healing well. The Formorians built the cairn following the Second Battle of Mag Turied to conceal it. Hidden from sight within the well contains every type of herb which grows in Ireland. It was in here the Dannan warriors were bathed and renewed to full health following their falls in battle. Dian Cécht is also known to have blessed a well on the Galway and Mayo border in the province of Connaught. Dian Cécht is recorded as having an important role within the Irish Deities, not only for his great healing and magical feats but also as an oracle, often called on for council and his decisions held sway – surely a powerful figure in the pantheon of Irish gods.

If you would like to read more about the ancient Irish gods, check out my History & Myth Collection


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