The Celtic Interpretation is a school of thought that applies Irish and Welsh mythology to the study of the Otherworld geography. It also examines heroic and god-like figures that appear in the literature in order to reveal the more social aspects of interaction with the creatures in or from the other reality. Academics who follow this school have divided the god-like peoples into three groups and this article will discuss the first of these, the House of Anu, Danu or Dôn.
Danu is the speculated name of the continental Celts’ mother goddess. There are cognates of her name across Europe and it turns up in place names, for example the river Danube. The name may mean something like “flowing” or “river”, or it may relate to “good”, depending on the (debated) etymological origins. Danu was brought to the Blessed Isles with Celtic culture.
Danu barely appears by that name in Irish records or literature. Where she does, her name is usally interpreted as Ana or Anu. Her descendents are referred to as Tuatha de Danaan (probably meaning The People of Danu) and eventually became the Irish version of the Fair Folk. These characters, whether god-like or fairy, are usually interpreted as positive and heroic – and at war with their rivals, the Fomorians (see the House of Chicol).
The Welsh version of Danu is Dôn, who again plays little part in the surviving literature. Her main role is as the mother of a number of characters, although she is never seen herself. Due to the way the Mabinogi was written down in eleventh century, the children of Dôn are associated with the Gwynedd region of Wales while their rivals, the House of Llŷr, are associated with the Dyfed region of the same nation.
So, the remnants of Danu are mainly in name only but, as with the term Tuatha de Danaan, her name continues in the phrase “The House of Danu”, used to describe god-like figures that have been imported to the Blessed Isles rather than those who have been developed to explain Otherworld personalities. While these characters may have accreted some characteristics from Otherworld creatures, the seed that they formed about is that of a typical god belief.