The Goddess Fand

The Story of Fand (goddess)

Known as the Pearl of Beauty, Fand was the wife of the sea-god Manannán mac Lir. As we’ve seen before, Manannán was considered the father of the Tuatha dé Danann.

Fand and her husband lived in the Otherworld at a place called Tír Tairnigiri (the Land of Promise), not to be confused with Tír na nÓg, the Land of Youth, where brave warriors went upon their deaths (the Otherworld locations will feature in another article; stay tuned for that).

When Fand and Manannán had an argument, he left her and ventured afar, and while he was away, Tír Tairnigiri was attacked by three kings of the Fomorii, a race of so-called evil gods who ‘came from the sea’.

Fand sent for Cú Chulainn, saying that if he protected her, he would have her love. Cú Chulainn sends Laeg, his charioteer to investigate. When Laeg returned, he told Cú Chulainn of the marvellous wonders he saw at Tír Tairnigiri. Cú Chulainn goes to the Land of Promise for himself.

Fand and Cu Chulainn
Fand and Cú Chulainn meet again.

In battle, Cú Chulainn slays the Fomorii kings and Fand takes him as a lover. He remains in her bed for a month before returning to Ireland with a view to meeting her again. When Cú Chulainn’s wife, Emer, discovers this, she sets out to kill the goddess, Fand.

As they argue about who loves him more, Emer realises that Fand does indeed love Cú Chulainn. She offers him to the goddess, thereby proving how much she loves her husband.

At this time, Manannán arrives and, seeing the spat, he demands that Fand choose between Cú Chulainn and himself. Fand says, ‘Neither of you is better or nobler than the other, but I choose you, Manannán, because you have no other wife who you are worthy of, but Cú Chulainn has Emer.’

Manannán shakes his cloak between his wife and Cú Chulainn so that they would see each other no more, and later, Cú Chulainn and Emer are given a potion of forgetfulness.

Fand never saw the warrior again.

Peter J Merrigan
Peter J Merrigan was first published at the age of 17 in the Simon & Schuster anthology, Children of the Troubles. He has studied extensively and maintains a passion for pre-Christian Ireland. He is the author of the Ailigh Wars Saga novels, set in Iron Age Ireland.