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HIST & MYTH: Bres - Irish God of Agriculture

Post 224. Written by Ben Kesp. 

Some might say an unlikely candidate to be enthroned as the God of Agriculture but the Tuatha Dé Danann (Irish Gods), saw the worth in someone rather than their actions. Despite his oppressive rule against the Danann, following the Second Battle of Moytura (Mag Tuired) Bres was captured but his life was spared by Lugh (Sun God) if he shared his knowledge of when the Danann should plant the harvest. 

Bres, half Danann, son of the Goddess Eriu and half Fomorian, son of Elatha, is described as a beautiful and handsome man but lacked leadership and kingship qualities. When the Danann first arrived in Ireland and encountered the Firbolgs, which they successful beat at the First Battle of Moytura, a peace treaty was formed between the Danann and the Fomorians, where its stated were not a race of the land but had a settlement on Tory Island off the north coast of Ireland. Though the Danann had victory over the Firbolgs, they suffered huge losses and Nuada, King of the Danann, had lost his right arm in battle. The Danann saw imperfection unsuitable for kingship and therefore, Nuada lost his new position as King of Ireland with Bres selected as his successor. 

His rule lasted for seven years and it was oppressive. He raised taxes and reduced the Danann to slaves. The Danann sought to have Nuada reinstated as King. With a combination of surgery and magic, a new arm of silver was fastened on Nuada’s body and Bres had no option but to step down as king without the support of his people. Angered, Bres went to Tory Island to seek help from his father who promised him support fighting the Danann. The Danann lost the battle against the Fomorians who became the overlords demanding tributes, while bards and druids were banned from teaching.

The Danann rose up under the leadership of Lugh and their armies fought the Fomorians at Moytura commanded by Bres. The Danann suffered huge losses including the death of Nuada and his Queen, Macha. Balor, ruler of the Fomorians was killed by Lugh. Bres was captured and Lugh spared his life if he told the Danann when to plant the harvest thus securing Bres’s place as the God of Agriculture.

Bres married Brigit, daughter of Dagda (father of the gods) and goddess of poetry, arts and crafts. They had a son named Rúadán. In the Lebor Gabála, a collection of poems and narratives detailing the history of Ireland from ancient times to the Middle Ages describes Bres as “beautiful to behold, yet harsh and inhospitable”. Another poem within the book describes him as a noble character even stating he was called the “flower” of the Danann, so there seems to be a contradiction as to his true personality. 

Lugh dished out his death sentence on Bres by having 300 wooden cows made and filled with a poisonous red liquid which was then poured into pails and offered to Bres to drink which he did not refuse. However despite the love or hatred the Danann may have had for Bres, he managed to secure his place among the pantheon of Irish Gods. 

Discover more on Bres and the Irish Gods with the History & Myth Collection by checking out its page on the Ben Kesp Website

Image: Irish Central

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