A frequent talking point about Irish mythology that I see peddled in many neo-pagan and academic circles is the deity Lúgh Lámhfhada is no longer deemed a sun god but rather a light god or storm-god.

I find this very strange as many of the texts from Irish sagas staring Lúgh often describe him with solar imagery, and Julius Caesar once compared Lúgh‘s Gaulish counterpart Lúgús to the Greco-Roman sun-god Apollo in his writings.

"Among the gods, they most worship Mercury. There are numerous images of him; they declare him the inventor of all arts, the guide for every road and journey, and they deem him to have the greatest influence for all money-making and traffic. After him they set Apollo, Mars, Jupiter, and Minerva. Of these deities they have almost the same idea as all other nations: Apollo drives away diseases, Minerva supplies the first principles of arts and crafts, Jupiter holds the empire of heaven, Mars controls wars. "

— Julius Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Gallico, 6:17

" ...they were not long there when they saw an army and a goodly host coming towards them from the East, and in the vanguard, there was one young man high in authority overall; and like to the setting sun was the radiance of his face and forehead, and they were unable to gaze upon his countenance on account of its splendour. And this is who it was - Lugh Lamhfhada Loinnbheimionach...from the Land of Promise...and when the Cathbarr (Manannan’s helmet) was let off of him the appearance of his face and forehead was as brilliant as the sun on a dry summer’s day."

Richard J O'Duffy, The Quest of the Sons of Turenn, p 67

"Then arose Breas, the son of Balar, and he said: "It is a wonder to me", said he, "that the sun to rise in the west today, and in the east every other day". "It would be better that it wer so", said the Druids. "What else is it?" said he. "The radiance of the face of Lugh of the Long Arms", said they."

— Eugene O'Curry, The Fate of the Children of Tuireann, pp. 176–177

Can someone explain to me why this is the case?

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    The interpretatio graeca is a weak guide to the nature of the identified gods. Witness the "Hermes/Mercury -- Thoth -- Odin" identification.
    – Mary
    Commented Apr 16, 2022 at 0:54

1 Answer 1


Basically, there was a Victorian mania for identifying mythological figures as sun gods, they massively overdid it, and there has been a reaction against that. Scholars are, on the whole, much more cautious in these things than they used to be.

We no longer take such a systematic and compartmentalised approach to the nature and functions of deities. Gods have a range of associations, and there's plenty of ambiguity and overlap. For example, in Greek mythology, Apollo has a lot of solar associations, but he's also associated with music, art and healing - Caesar, in the passage you quote, is not thinking of the god he identifies with Apollo as a sun-god, but as the god who "drives away diseases" - and there are other gods with solar associations, including Helios, the personification of the sun. In any case, the god Caesar is thought to be identifing with Lugus is not Apollo but Mercury. Bear in mind that the Norse god identified with Mercury is Odin, probably on the basis that he was the guide of the dead. The psychopomp role is often associated with the setting sun, but Mercury and Odin are not generally thought of as sun-gods.

The other thing to bear in mind is the nature of the evidence. We have to reconstruct what the pre-Christian Irish thought of their gods through texts written by Christians, usually some centuries after those gods were no longer worshipped. Oral tradition is not very stable, and a lot changes as stories are passed down. The Death of the Sons of Tuireann, which you quote two translations of, is very late, dating to the early modern period, 16th-17th century, so it's not a very reliable guide to how the pre-Christian Irish thought of their gods.

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    One notes that in classical times, Apollo was not, in fact, a sun god. That only came about in Hellenistic times.
    – Mary
    Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 1:16

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