(Adapted from Lady Gregory's 1904 collection Gods and Fighting Men)
It was on Beltaine, the first day of May, that the Tuatha de Danann, the people of the gods of Dana, came through the high air to Ireland. Although they landed in north-west Connacht, the Firbolgs, that were in Ireland before them, saw nothing but a mist lying on the hills where they landed.
It was from the north they came. And they brought from their cities their four treasures: the Lia Fail, the Stone of Destiny, a Sword from which none could escape, a Spear of Victory and the Cauldron, that no company ever went away from unsatisfied.
Nuada was king of the Tuatha de Danann. Chief in his company were his brother Ogma, Manannan, son of Lir, Neit, a god of battle and Credenus the Craftsman and Goibniu the Smith. Their greatest women were Badb, a battle goddess, the Morrigu, the Crow of Battle, Eire, Fodla and Banba, daughters of the Dagda and Brigit a woman of poetry. Her sway was great and noble and she was a woman of healing and of smith's work. The meaning of her name was Breo-saighit, a fiery arrow.
Below the sea the de Danann had a well where the nine hazels of wisdom grew; that is, the hazels of inspiration and the knowledge of poetry. Their fruit fed five waiting salmon and were a person to eat of the salmon they would know all wisdom and poetry.
At the time of the arrival of the de Danann, Eochaid was king of the Firbologs. Messengers came to him at Teamhair (Tara) and told him that a new race of people had come into Ireland but it was not known whether they were of the earth or the skies and they had settled at Magh Rein (Co. Leitrium). Eochaid was not surprised by the news for a dream had come to him. Upon asking his Druids for its meaning he was told that a strong enemy would be coming against him.
Eochaid and the FirBolgs sent their champion Sreng to meet the strangers at Magh Rein. A great fighting man of the Tuatha de Dannan, Bres, met him and the two heroes compared fighting weapons. The two agreed that despite whatever happened in the future, they themselves would be friends.
Sreng returned to the FirBolgs with the missive that the de Danaan would be content with one half of Ireland, but failing that, there would be battle. Eochaid and his advisors consulted and decided to fight the de Danaan, concluding that if they gave up half the island, `they [the de Danaan] will soon take the whole.'
And so it was that both sides prepared to battle at Magh Nia (Moytura near Cong). The battle commenced on Midsummers day and for three days the Firbolgs beat the Tuatha de Danann champions. On the fourth day the de Danann got the upper hand and at Traigh Eothaile (near Ballisodare) King Eochaid fell. The de Dannan gave the remaining FirBolg their choice of provinces and they took Connacht; and Sreng and his people lived there and their children after them.
The Tuatha de Dannan took possession of Teamhair and to the north
of the Hill of the Hostages they placed their stone, the Lia Fail and
so it used to roar under the feet of every king that took possession
The Tuatha de Dannan are the principal divinities of Old Irish tradition. They are described as excelling in every art and are also called the "Ever-Living One's" or the "people of the sidhe." According to the pseudo-historical text Lebor Gabala (Book of Invasions), the de Dannan arrived in Ireland thirty-seven years after the Firbolg, whom they displaced, and 297 years before the Milesians, descendants of present day Irish.
The Firbolg descend from northern Gaul. While they were once termed "Men of the Bags" after "bolg" it is now thought they were named for their diety Bolg or Bolga. During the 37 year reign of the Firbolgs, their king Eochaid was known as a just and generous monarch. It is for his wife, Tailtiu, that the annual Lugnasadh fair was founded. Mythologically, Tailtiu is thought by some to be a much older earth goddess historically retained until the era of the Firbolgs. East of Cong, present day enthusiasts can visit the 60 ft high Ballymagibbon Cairn which dates from about 3,000 B.C. The enormous cairn was erected to commemorate the early days of the battle between the Firbolg and the de Danann tribes before the tide turned against the Firbolg. Each stone is said to represent the head of a Danann.