This coin is one of a commemorative collection that all portray a scene from popular Irish myths. I might talk later about the other coins in the series, but this is the one that resonates with me the most.
This coin shows an image of Lugh charging down the hosts of the Chthonic beings known as Fomorians, or Fomoraigh in Irish.
The Fomoraigh were a race of mythical beings who settled in Ireland before the coming of the race of Gods (called Tuatha De Danann) and the race of the current Irish population (called Milesians). Direct comparisons are tricky when it comes to Irish myth, but it’s reasonable to compare them to Jotnar or Titans. The Fomorians were sea pirates who regularly landed in Ireland to plunder and enslave its other inhabitants. Their portrayal in myth is heavily influenced by the actions of the Viking raiders around the time Christian monks and traveling poets were writing these stories down.
The Fomorians were primarily opposed to the Tuatha De Danann, the People of the Goddess Danu.
Lugh was a young warrior who was half Fomorian and half Tuatha De. He was raised in secret fosterage away from his people until he was grown to manhood, at which point he entered into the King’s hall and introduced himself as a warrior and a master of every conceivable skill and art. Because of his considerable talents, youthful vigor, and eagerness to fight, the old King Nuada hands over authority to Lugh. This was probably intended to be a temporary arrangement, but things turned out otherwise in the end.
A common trope you’ll see these days claims that Lugh was a solar God for the pre-Christian Irish. This isn’t true, but rather it’s an invention of the Victorian era, which probably stems from an incorrect translation of Lugh’s name to mean “light.” The only surviving manuscript which hints at a solar connection dates from the 16th century, and even that manuscript says that Lugh actually isn’t the sun.
“Bres rose up and said: “Isn’t it a wonder to see the sun rising in the west today.”
“It might be better if it were the sun,” said the Druids.
“What else is it?” said he.
“It’s the shining of the face of Lugh.”
– From Oidheadh Chloinne Tuireann
So the Druids confirm that it isn’t the sun approaching, just the bright face of Lugh. In other words, Lugh and the sun are not the same thing.
On the back of this coin is a knotwork of fairly common Irish design, which has become so prevalent in all things Celtic since the Celtic Revival in the 19th century. This side contains a great deal of detail, including animal motifs hidden inside the intricate flowing knots.
Although Lugh is shown on one side with the sun flashing at his back as he charges down a host of enemies, this image doesn’t resonate with me on any solar level. I just can’t make the mental leap necessary to proclaim Lugh as a solar God despite the evidence to the contrary.
But he does fall into the Striker category reasonably neatly when examined through the structure Jack Donovan lays out in his book, Fire In The Dark.
Lugh comes to the aid of his people, who are beset on all sides by chaos, greed, and resentment. The Fomoraigh have basically enslaved the Tuatha De Danann, who haven’t been able to resist. Then Lugh arrives, and when he’s asked what he is and what he can do, he says that he can be whatever he needs to be to get the job done.
Lugh unites the forces of Order and drives out the Chthonic Fomorians using his spear and his magic. He inspires others to stand up for themselves and assert their will and independence. He kills a fierce being of malice and destruction when he strikes out the magic eye of Balor (which inflicts paralysis) using his sling stone.
He lacks some of the symbolism of The Striker which is common in other traditions. His weapon is a spear, not a club or hammer. He isn’t related to the lightning or the oak in the myths, although there is an aspect of storm symbolism in some folklore sources. Also, two of his names are Lonnbemnech (pronounced long-BEV-neck) which means “fierce striker,” and also Rindagach, which means something like “eager to fight with a spear.” The word lonn is also used to describe lightning. Lasrach lonn is an Irish phrase for lightning, and it means something like “fierce flames or lights.” His relation to the spear is evident, that’s just what he fights with, but you could argue that lightning is probably more spearlike than clublike.
So although the idea of Lugh having a solar aspect doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, the tangle of knots on the back of this gold-plated coin reminds me of a solar eye, or perhaps a solar engine of motion, dynamism, and light. The playful dance of light across the knots on the back reminds me of the bright eye of The Father watching me in silent judgment, while the image of Lugh charging down a host of foes fills me with Striker energy.
These are just some of the thoughts which have occurred to me while using this coin as a focus for meditation. I usually carry this coin everywhere I go in my pocket, separate from my other coins, which are mere currency. In times of doubt, I flip the coin and trust to its decision.
Little artifacts like this can often prove invaluable when imbued with the right intent. They can serve as a totem for focus, a source of inspiration, a cure for indecision, or a trigger for different modes of thought. If that’s not magic, then I don’t know what is.
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