Irish Mythology: Donn Fírinne, The Dark One

Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland

In Irish mythology, Donn is a god of the dead. Donn is the modern Irish word for the colour brown and appears as an element in many Irish surnames like Donegan, Donovan, Donnelly and on its own as Dunn/Dunne. However in the case of Donn the word derives from the Celtic word ‘dhuosnos’ meaning dark – Dark Lord.

Donn is said to dwell in Tech Duinn (the ‘house of Donn” or ‘house of the dark one’). A 9th-century poem says that Donn’s dying wish was that all his descendants would gather at Tech Duinn after death: “To me, to my house, you shall all come after your deaths”. The 10th-century tale Airne Fíngein (‘Fíngen’s Vigil’) says that Tech Duinn is where the souls of all the dead gather. In the translation of Acallam na Senórach, to go to the House of Donn in Irish tradition means to die. This suggests…

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