The Irish Hero Dagda and Samson
Introduction: Irish Mythology and the Bible
Summary of Samson adapted from
Wikipedia article: "Samson"
Parallels Between Dagda
Sexual Prowess and Exchange of Favors
Parallels Samson -Dagda.
Irish Mythology and the Bible
Irish Mythology frequently contains details that have since been proven
true by archaeological findings.
For instance, an old Irish myth, "the Marriage of Etain" says that King Eochaidh
Airemh made the clans of Tethba build a causeway across the bog of Lemrach. In
1985 in Longford, Ireland, were uncovered 1000 yards of remains from a roadway
dating back to ca. 150 BCE. It was found in the place where the legend said it would be.
[Source: "The Celtic Empire. The First
Millenium of Celtic History 1000 BC - AD 51" by Peter Berresford Ellis, UK,
Irish Legends on occasion recall Biblical precedents and the impression is that
the similarities were not always due to later Christian influence.
Concerning parallels to Scripture in general we must also take into account the
Hebrew original sources. We believe in the literal truth of the Bible.
To see our three articles on this subject:
The Literal Meaning of Prophecy.
The Bible is inspired and was written down by Prophets and
Sages guided by the Almighty. Together with this we must recognize that the
Bible was written in the language of the people at the time of writing.
Scripture incorporates local traditions. These traditions are undoubtedly the
correct ones but that does not mean that other somewhat deviant accounts were also
not in circulation. These were rejected from being included in the Canon of Scripture but
would have continued in popular tradition. Much of the populace over large
sections of Ancient Israel appear at times to have been effectually illiterate.
They relied on oral traditions. We also know that they were heavily influenced
by the peoples around them and in turn had influence over them. We are implying
that parallels between Irish (and other) traditions) with the Bible may reflect
the remembrance of alternate accounts. We also know that there is much
that happened to Israel in ancient times that the Bible only hints at or ignores
Our recent study of the First Book of Kings brought up the
case of King Ahab fighting alongside the King of Aram in a coalition of eleven
local monarchs against the King of Assyrian and probably defeating him. The
Bible does not mention this but we know of it through what may be deduced from
an Assyrian inscription from the time of Shalmaneser-iii.
[For more details, See the Brit-Am
commentary following 1-Kings 22:30].
Irish Mythology in places on occasion derives from Biblical
antecedents as found in Scripture itself and in oral traditions some of which
were transmitted to us via Talmudic and Rabbinical Literature. This parallelism
extents not only to details in the tales themselves but also to the psychology
The article below (unlike some of our other writings) unashamedly indulges in a
great deal of speculation. Nevertheless we think there is something to what we
are saying and that these ideas are worth considering. If perchance we are
mistaken in this case then it should not reflect on our other writings. The
article in itself is of interest and worth reading. Regardless as to whether or
not the reader will agree with us we feel certain that he will have benefited
from the information and be pleased with its presentation.
One of the figures whom we consider to show Biblical parallels is Dagda, the
giant good god, son of the goddess Dana. The brothers of Dagda were Ogma and
Lugh though in some accounts they are ascribed different parents.
Several features of Dagda bring to mind the figure of Samson though parallels
with other Biblical heroes also exist.
In Irish accounts the Tribe of Dana came from Lebanon and then from Greece and
had fought there against the Philistines.
Dan in Ireland and Wales.
The Tribe of Dana, Bile, and
The son of Dana was Dagda. Dagda along with his brothers parallels aspects of
Scripture especially those concerning the Hebrew judge Samson.
The story of Samson is found in the Book of Judges chapters 13 to 16
Summary of Samson adapted from
The Israelites had been delivered "into the hand of the
Philistines". An angel appears to
an Israelite from the tribe of Dan, in the city of
and to his wife, who had been unable to conceive. This angel proclaims that the
couple will soon have a son who will begin to deliver the Israelites from the
wife (as well as the child himself) were to abstain from all alcoholic
beverages, and her promised child was not to shave or cut his hair. He was to be
from birth. After the angel returned,
soon prepared a sacrifice, but the Messenger would only allow it to be for God,
touching his staff to it, miraculously engulfing it in flames. The angel then
ascended to heaven in the fire. When he becomes a young adult, Samson leaves the
hills of his people to see the cities of the Philistines. While there, Samson
falls in love with a Philistine woman from
that, overcoming the objections of his parents who do not know that "it is of
the Lord", he decides to marry
her.On the way to ask for the
woman's hand in marriage, Samson is attacked by an Asiatic Lion and simply grabs
it and rips it apart, as the spirit of God moves upon him, divinely empowering
him. He continues on to the Philistine's house, winning her hand in marriage. On
his way to the wedding, Samson notices that bees have nested in the carcass of
the lion and have made honey.He
eats a handful of the honey and gives some to his
the wedding-feast, Samson proposes that he tell a riddle to his thirty groomsmen
(all Philistines); if they can solve it, he will give them thirty pieces of fine
linen and garments.The
riddle ("Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something
sweet") is a veiled account of his second encounter with the lion (at which only
he was present). The Philistines are infuriated by the
thirty groomsmen tell Samson's new wife that they will burn her and her father's
household if she does not discover the answer to the riddle and tell it to them.
At the urgent and tearful imploring of his bride, Samson tells her the solution,
and she tells it to the thirty groomsmen.
He flies into a rage and kills thirty Philistines of
for their garments, which he gives his thirty groomsmen. Still in a rage, he
returns to his father's house, and his bride is given to the best man as his
wife. Her father refuses to allow him to see her, and wishes to give Samson the
attaches torches to the tails of three hundred foxes, leaving the panicked
beasts to run through the fields of the Philistines, burning all in their
Philistines find out why Samson burned their crops, and they burn Samson's wife
and father-in-law to death. In revenge, Samson slaughters many more Philistines,
smiting them "hip and thigh". Samson then takes refuge in a cave in the rock of
An army of Philistines went up and demanded from 3000 men of Judah to deliver
them Samson. With Samson's consent, they tie him with two new ropes and are
about to hand him over to the Philistines when he breaks free. Using the jawbone
of an ass, he slays one thousand Philistines. At the conclusion of Judges 15 it
is said that "Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the
Philistines". Later, Samson goes to Gaza, where he stays at a harlot's house.
His enemies wait at the gate of the city to ambush him, but he rips the gate up
and carries it to "the hill that is in front of Hebron".
He then falls in love with a woman, Delilah, at the Brook of
Philistines approach Delilah and induce her (with 1100 silver coins each) to try
to find the secret of Samson's
strength.Samson, not wanting to
reveal the secret, teases her, telling her that he will lose his strength should
he be bound with fresh
bowstrings.She does so while he
sleeps, but when he wakes up he snaps the
persists...Eventually Samson tells Delilah that he will lose his strength with
the loss of his hair. Delilah calls for a servant to shave Samson's seven
locks....Samson is captured by the Philistines, who stab out his eyes with their
swords. After being blinded, Samson is brought to Gaza, imprisoned, and put to
work grinding grain.
One day the Philistine leaders assemble in a temple for a religious sacrifice to
Dagon, one of their most important deities, for having delivered Samson into
their hands. They summon Samson so women and men gather on the roof to watch.
Once inside the temple, Samson, his hair having grown long again, asks the
servant who is leading him to the temple's central pillars if he may lean
against them (referring to the pillars).
"Then Samson prayed to God, "remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray
thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines
for my two eyes" (Judges 16:28)"."Samson said, "Let me die with the
Philistines!" (Judges 16:30). He pulled the two pillars together, and down came
the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more as
he died than while he lived." (Judges 16:30).
After his death, Samson's family recovers his body from the rubble and buries
him near the tomb of his father
To my mind there are parallels between the Irish god Dagda
and Samson. Dagda was a giant club-wielding deity of immense strength. He used a
club and not of man -made weaponry while Samson wielded used the jaw of a donkey
as a club and killed 1000 Philistines with it. Dagda was enormously strong like
Samson. Dagda protected his people mainly through individual feats of strength
like Samson versus other heroes who inspired the people to action and lead
armies. Dagda however also led armies and participated in mass battles in one of
which he was killed.
#Tales depict the Dagda as a figure of immense power, armed with a magic club
and associated with a cauldron. The club was supposed to be able to kill nine
men with one blow; but with the handle he could return the slain to life. The
cauldron was known as the Undry and was said to be bottomless, from which no man
left unsatisfied. He also possessed Daurdabla, also known as "the Four Angled
Music", a richly ornamented magic harp made of oak which, when the Dagda played
it, put the seasons in their correct order; other accounts tell of it being used
to command the order of battle. He possessed two pigs, one of which was always
growing whilst the other was always roasting, and ever-laden fruit trees. #
Here we have Dagda attributed characteristics associated with other Biblical
figures. The cauldron reminds us of Elijah:
Elijah promised the widow who had given him her last morsel to eat:
[1-Kings 17:14] FOR THUS SAYS THE LORD GOD OF ISRAEL: "THE BIN OF FLOUR SHALL
NOT BE USED UP, NOR SHALL THE JAR OF OIL RUN DRY, UNTIL THE DAY THE LORD SENDS
RAIN ON THE EARTH."
Dagda being able to revive the dead also recalls Elijah who revived from death the son of the same widow whom he had
with self-replenishing containers of flour and oil (1-Kings 17:22). Elishah the former pupil of Elijah
performed a similar miracle to Elijah when he saved a woman from having to sell her two son into servitude. She had only one jar of oil left.
Elishah told her to borrow utensils from her neighbors and pour the oil into them. All the vessels were filled and she was able to sell the oil and be freed from debt.
2-Kings 4:5 So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons, who
brought the vessels to her; and she poured it out.
6 Now it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son,
'Bring me another vessel.'
And he said to her, 'There is not another vessel.' So the oil ceased.
7 Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, 'Go, sell the oil and pay
your debt; and you and your sons live on the rest.'
Dagda revived the dead with the handle of his staff. Elishah is associated with a similar phenomenon.
Elishah blessed a woman who with her husband had provided him with lodging. The woman bore a son.
The boy died in childhood and immediately the woman sent to Elishah to do something about it.
Elishah gave his staff to his disciple Gehazi and told him to go to where the dead boy was lying and place the end of the staff on the boy's mouth. Gehazi did so but nothing happened. Meanwhile the woman had importuned Elishah
to come himself. Elishah went in to where the boy was and managed to revive him.
2-Kings 4:32 When Elisha
came into the house, there was the child, lying dead on his bed. 33 He went in
therefore, shut the door behind the two of them, and prayed to the LORD.
34 And he went up and lay on the child, and put his mouth on his mouth, his eyes
on his eyes, and his hands on his hands; and he stretched himself out on the
child, and the flesh of the child became warm.
35 He returned and walked back and forth in the house, and again went up and
stretched himself out on him; then the child sneezed seven times, and the child
opened his eyes.
36 And he called Gehazi
and said, 'Call this Shunammite
woman.' So he called her. And when she came in to him, he said, 'Pick up your
37 So she went in, fell at his feet, and bowed to the ground; then she picked up
her son and went out.
The harp of Dagda reminds us of King David.
David was chosen to attend King Saul at his court due to his skill with the harp
and the soothing effect his music induced:
[I-Samuel 16:16] "Let our master now command your servants, who
are before you, to seek out a man who is a skillful player on the harp. And it
shall be that he will play it with his hand when the distressing spirit from God
is upon you, and you shall be well."
[I-Samuel 16:17] So Saul said to his servants, "Provide me now a man who can
play well, and bring him to me."
[I-Samuel 16:18] Then one of the servants answered and said, "Look, I have seen
a son of Jesse the
who is skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in
speech, and a handsome person; and the LORD is with him."?
Not only Dagda but the Irish in general became associated with the harp which became the semi-official symbol of Ireland.
Vincenzio Galilei (father of the famous astronomer Galileo) in "Dialogo della Musica Antica" (1581 CE)
commented on the Irish harp:
"This most ancient instrument was brought to us from Ireland where such are most
excellently worked... and they paint and engrave it on their public and private
buildings and on their hill: stating as their reason for so doing that they have
descended from the Royal Prophet David."
As for the two pigs Dagda possessed, this was a later
development. Irish tradition is full of pigs and swine. The curing of ham and
the rearing of pigs was an important aspect of Celtic culture on the Continent.
Even so according to LOUIS HYMAN ("The Jews of Ireland", Jerusalem, Israel,
"It is stated in very old copies of The Book of Invasions and
other ancient documents that it was the Mosaic law that the
brought into Errin
[i.e. Ireland] at their coming; that it had been learned and received from Moses
in Egypt by Cae
who was himself an Israelite..."
see Various Traditions no.12.
It may be that some of the exiled Israelite Tribes did
continue for a time to keep the Hebraic Laws concerning forbidden foods. We know
that in Scotland up unto a few centuries back widespread food taboos existed
dating from pre-Christian times that overlapped Mosaic injunctions and swine was
forbidden in many communities.
"The Food Taboos of Old Scotland. The
Law of Moses and of Caledonia"
Sexual Prowess and Exchange of Favors
Samson and Dagda may have shared a feature that nice people prefer not to speak
# Despite his great power and prestige, the
is sometimes depicted as oafish and crude, even comical, wearing a short, rough
tunic that barely covers his rump, dragging his great penis on the ground. #
Pictures of Dagda with his great penis have been found.
Images of a giant bearing a club and with a huge penis in Britain and on the
Continent are thought to represent Dagda. Size may not make much of a
difference in reality but in popular imagination it does and that is what
creates mythology. The Dagda, at least in common imagery, would have been seen
as possessing exceptional sexual prowess.
Samson was also known for his powers in this region.
The Bible describes three sexual liaisons Samson conducted with Philistine
After he was captured and blinded he was put to work grinding.
[Judges 16: 21] Then the Philistines took him and put out his eyes, and brought
him down to Gaza. They bound him with bronze fetters, and he became a grinder in
In Hebrew the word used for "grind" can also have sexual
31:10] Then let my wife grind for another, And let others bow down over her.
Do not misunderstand or misinterpret what we are saying. The Bible says that
Samson was set to grinding and that means he was set to pushing a grinding stone in
the processing of grain. The word used for grinding however has a double meaning
and there were Sages who suggested that this additional meaning was also
There existed a tradition concerning Samson quoted by the Radak,
Each one of the Philistine would bring his wife to Samson so that she might get
pregnant from him #
Dagda used his sexual powers to extract information.
# His lover was
and his daughter was Breg.
Prior to the battle with the
Fomorians, he coupled with the
goddess of war, the Morrogan,
in exchange for a plan of battle.#
Samson did not receive but gave secrets to his women folk after coitus.
Nevertheless the plot is similar.
His first wife extracted the secret of honey in the carcase of a dead lion from
Later Delilah got from him the secret of his power coming from his hair.
Concerning his first wife we are told,
Judges 14:17 Now she had wept on him the seven days while their feast lasted.
And it happened on the seventh day that he told her, because she pressed him so
much. Then she explained the riddle to the sons of her people.
# she pressed him so
much. She would pressure him and refuse herself to him, and so on. # (Metsudat
Concerning Delilah we hear:
[Judges 16:16] And it came to pass, when she pestered him daily with her words
and pressed him, so that his soul was vexed to death,
# his soul was vexed to death. The Sages (Sotah
9b) said that Scripture expressed itself in euphemisms. She would slip out from
underneath when they were having intercourse.# (Radak).
The Bible described things as they happened. The figure of
Dagda may have been derived in part from that of Samson but since he was deified
it would not be seemly to have him looking like a fool ruled by that particular
portion of his anatomy. They therefore kept the story but switched the roles.
Instead of Dagda being confounded by his need for sex he became the one who
gained advantage by bestowing it.
is a father-figure (he is also known as
or "All-father") and a protector of the tribe. In some texts his father is
in others his mother is Ethlinn.
In Hebrew "Elatha" would connote "the goddess".
Ogma the brother of Dagda was also known for feats of strength and has aspects
# His father is
and his mother is usually given as
sometimes as Etain.#
Samson took refuge in a cave in the rock of Etam. Etham and
Etain could interchange since a final "m" became an "n" and the place of refuge
became the mother's womb or "rechem" in Hebrew meaning both "womb" and "source
had an affair with Boann,
wife of Nechtan.
In order to hide their affair,
Dagda made the sun stand still
for nine months; therefore their son,
was conceived, gestated and born in one day. #
The sun standing still is associated with Joshua who made the
sun stand for a full day. We shall see below that the name Dagda probably
originally derived from the Hebrew word "dag" meaning "fish". Joshua son of Nun
in Hebrew Mythology was also linked with a fish. Nun, the father of Joshua, has
a name which in Aramaic also means "fish". Different legends said that Joshua
was once swallowed by a fish (as happened to Jonah) etc.
Dagda and a Play on Words
was away the Dagda
shared out his land among his children, but
returned to discover that nothing had been saved for him. Under the guidance of
later tricked his father out of his home at the
was instructed to ask his father if he could live in the
for a day and a night, and the
Dagda agreed. But Irish has no
indefinite article, so "a day and a night" is the same as "day and night", which
covers all time, and so Aengus
took possession of the Bru
permanently. In "The Wooing of Etain", on the other hand,
uses the same ploy to trick
Elcmar out of
with the Dagda's
Here we see Daga tricked by his son through a play on words. This may be
compared to the Riddles of Samson.
Ogma the brother of Dagda invented the Ogham script.
The Sun-Face of Ogma and the Name of Samson
virtue of his battle prowess and invention of Ogham, he is compared with Ogmios,
a Gaulish deity associated with eloquence and equated with Herakles. J. A.
MacCulloch compares Ogma's epithet grianainech (sun-face) with Lucian's
description of the "smiling face" of Ogmios. #
The figure of Herakles (Hercules) was derived from Samson.
Ogma was parallel to Hercules. The name Samson in Hebrew may connote "strength
of the sun" (Samas-on) and at all events is based on the root SheMeSh meaning
sun. We see that Ogma was also referred to as "face of the sun".
Ogma in Gaul was known as Ogmios.
was a Gallic deity, who Lucian records was depicted as a bald old man with a bow
and club leading an apparently happy band of men with chains attached to their
ears from his tongue. This is thought by some scholars to be a metaphor for
eloquence, possibly related to
bardic practices. Lucian records
that the Gauls
associated him with Hercules. ##
The baldness of Ogmios is contradistinct to the long hair
of Samson but Samson had his hair shorn and then was put in chains.
The name Dagda is said to be derived from Old Irish: dag dia; [Irish:
dea-Dia] meaning "good god".
The Philistine god Dagon is described as depicted as a kind of male mermaid with
the lower half of his body shaped like a fish.
In Hebrew "dag" means "fish" and thus we have "dagon" implying fish-like.
Othniel Margalit ("The Sea Peoples in the Bible" Hebrew, 1988) suggests that
Dagon was later equated with either Zeus (i.e. Baal) the chief god or with
Apollo (a sun god) or with them both.
The Tribe of Dan neighbored the Philistines, intermarried with them, fought
against them, and perhaps also with them.
Samson the hero-judge came from the Tribe of Dan. Samson died by destroying the
Temple of Dagon. It could however be that due to Danites coming to worship Dagon
they re-named Samson in his honor. Later the name Dagon (or however the
Philistines and Danites actually pronounced it) was slightly altered (as was the
custom in the use of foreign names) to have pertinent meaning in local Irish,
Dag or Dagon was modified to Dagda.
Parallels Samson -Dagda
Samson was the hero from the Tribe of Dan: Dagda was the son of Dana mother of
the Tribe of Dana.
Both had immense strength.
Samson used the jaw of a donkey as a club; Dagda used a club.
Both acted more or less independently as individuals protecting their people.
Both were known for their unusual sexual potency.
Samson sold his secrets for sexual favors; Dagda obtained information by
bestowing sexual favor.
Both were known for their use of riddles and plays on words.
Samson was linked with the power of the sun; Ogmios (Ogma) brother of Dagda was
nicknamed "Face of the Sun".
Samson may have been later identified with Dagon (Apollo) and the name Dagda may
be derived from Dagon.
The parallelism between Dagda and Samson needs to be considered in the light of
additional evidence indicating that the Ancient Irish (and related peoples)
to a significant degree were the physical descendants of Israelite Tribes who
had lost their identity yet still retained vague traditions carried over from
when they had been in the Land of Israel before their exile.
"The Dagda, Father God of Ireland'
by Patti Wigington
Dan in Ireland and Wales.
Articles on the Tribe of Dan.
For articles on the Hebraic
Connections of Greek Mythology, see:
"Helleno-Yishurin. The Hebrew Origin of Greek Legends"
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