The following is reprinted from 'Keltria : A Journal of Druidism
and Keltic Magick' which is published 4 times a year at the
traditional cross-quaters festivals of Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane and
Lughnasadh. Subscriptions are available for $6.00 for 1 year. For
further information write them at:
PO Box 33284
Minneapolis, MN 55433
The Myth of Diancecht and Minach
an interpetation by Iarwain
In the first battle of Moy Tura, Nuada lost his hand. Diancecht
fashioned a new one of silver and skillfully joined it to Nuada's
arm. One day Diancecht's son Miach took what was left of Nuada's
real hand, placed it next to Nuada's arm and uttered an incantation.
AFter three days and nights the hand was rejoined and renewed.
Diancecht was furious that his son was a better healer than he.
Diancecht struck Miach three times in the head with his sword. Miach
was able to heal each wound. On the fourt blow, Diancecht split
Miach's head in two, killing him.
From Miach's grave grew 365 herbs, each one with curative powers
for one of the 365 nerves in the body. Miach's sister, Airmid,
picked these herbs and arranged them according to their curative
powers. Diancecht became so enraged that his son rivaled him even
after death that he scattered the herbs about, hoplessly confusing
them. If Diancecht hadn't done this, man would be immortal.
Several meanings can be found in this myth.
One meaning is that Diancecht represents the order of society.
Miach was the young upstart, the rebel. Although good came from his
actions, he acted out of his place. IN time he might have replaced
Diancecht as the healer of the Gods, but he threatened order by
challenging Diancecht and had to be stopped.
From Miach's grave grew 365 herbs to heal the body. From his death,
new life, in the form of curative herbs, grew. This represents the
idea that life feeds on life. That new life may only come through
death of old. In a Native American Myth, it was corn that first grew
from the grave of a young man's spirit guide; in the South Pacific,
the coconut tree first came from the death of a young woman's spirit
lover. This is a common thread in the mythoilogy of many cultures.
In most some sort of food is tehs ymbol for new life, in the
Diancecht myth, it was the curative powers of the herbs.
I wonder why Diancecht scattered the herbs. After thinking about
it, it seems obvious that the herbs represent immortality, something
that man was not meant to have. I found a variation of this
interpretation in a myth of the Yamana of Tierra del Fuego.
In the Yoalox family, there were two brothers, of which the
younger was the smartest and the most talented. One day the elder
brother was playing with some stones, striking them together for his
amusement. He discovered that when he struck certain stones together
they gave a spark. He struck the stones in such a way that a spark
ignited some dry down. He then got some kindling and built a fire.
He showed his fire to his younger brother explaining that they
could keep it burning forever so that people could have fire without
trouble. The younger brother disgreed saying that it would be much
better if people had to work for it. He then took a stick and
scattered the embers. Since that time, people have had to work to
The Yamana myth ends in a similar manner toi the Diancecht myth.
Some boon was created so that people's lives would be made easier,
but the results were scattered away. I believe that the lesson of
the Yamana myth can also be applied to the Diancecht myth. Diancecht
did not scatter the herbs just out of anger. The curative powers of
the herbs could not be given to man, but must be worked for.
As with most myths, the Diancecht myth has many meanings, there
may be some I have missed. The number of herbs relates to the number
of days in the year and there must be some relation to the number of
times Diancecht struck Miach and to how long it took Nuada's hand
to regenerate. How do these relations add to the myth?
On the Myth of Daincecht:
Charles Squire, CELTIC MYTH AND LEGEND, pp 81-82
John and Caitland Matthews, THE AQUARIAN GUIDE TO BRITISH AND IRISH
On the Origin of Corn:
Joseph Campbell, THE MASKS OF GOD-PRIMITIVE MYTHOLOGY, PP 216-220
On the Origin of the coconut:
IBID op. cit. pp 190-195.
On the Origin of Fire:
IBID, HISTORICAL ATLAS OF WORLD MYTHOLOGY, Vol I Part 2, PP 259-260.