The Third Treasure

The Sword,

The Spear,

The Cauldron,

The Stone,

They were called the “Treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann” because they were brought into our world by those ancient gods who arrived in Ireland in a time before the first mortal men would walk its shores.

Each of the Treasures came from a shining city somewhere in the north of the world.  Those cities are gone now, abandoned by children of the Goddess Danu, although no tale survives to tell us why.  Perhaps there was some cataclysm which forced the Dé Danann to emigrate to our humble realm, bringing the Treasures with them.  Perhaps it was the action of removing these sacred relics from their former homes that brought those fabled cities to ruin.

When I first began to explore the mythology of my ancestors, I largely ignored the Four Treasures, favoring instead the stories of the gods and heroes themselves.  With time and study, however, I have come to see the Treasures are far more than just magical tools which make occasional appearances in the lore.

I think that if the divine cities of Failias, Gorias, Findias, and Murias ever existed, and if they did indeed fall, it was through the agency of the Four Treasures and their departure from that world, into this.  And our world was changed, bent, altered in some fundamental way, upon their arrival here.

Cauldron Sculpture

Sword • Spear • Cauldron • Stone

In the mythology of the Irish, the Cauldron belonged to the Dagda, the Good God, who was the father of his mighty tribe.  The Dagda was wise beyond measure, a warrior of unparalleled strength, and a craftsmen of surpassing skill.  And like any good father figure, he was a provider for his family.

The great cauldron he carried was the instrument of his providence.  In some stories, it is said that no man could walk away from that vessel unsatisfied.  In others, it is said that it would provide sustenance to all in equal measure to their worth.  But in any case, the cauldron was a font of nourishment.

In the mythology of ancient Greece, there are tales of the Cornucopia, the horn of the goddess of abundance, broken off by the infant Zeus in his exuberance, and overflowing with all the bounty of the harvest.  The Cornucopia, the horn of plenty borne by yet another father-god, is a symbol well remembered at this time of year, although I suspect that most of those who display this symbol in their Thanksgiving decor, do not remember its divine associations.

And there are more stories still.

The Cauldron has many names and many owners, but always it is a source of life, abundance, and rejuvenation.  And if in some stories the Cauldron provides sustenance for those who hunger, it shouldn’t be surprising that it may provide life for the dead who are placed within its hallow sphere.

The Third Treasure is, above all things, the vessel of life.

Swords • Wands • Cups • Coins

Not long ago, the mythology of the Celtic tribes began to fade away.  The gods retreated into slumber, or watchful silence, or perhaps they simply wandered among other people in other lands for a time.

A new religion and a new mythology swept out from the East, to dominate the hearts and minds of the people.  A doctrine of personal salvation pushed aside the old communion between the spirits of man and tribe and land.

But even as the people forgot the old ways, the symbolism endured beyond fickle human memory.  We forgot the old stories and invented new ones, but the Treasures remain, whatever origin we choose to invent for them.

And the Cauldron of the Dagda becomes the Sangréal, the Cup of Christ.

And its powers remain the same.

The merest sip of its contents is said to sate the starving and cure the dying.  The holy chalice is said to have held the blood of a dying god, making of it a conduit between the mortal and the immortal.  The cup is both things, at once, and as such, is equally capable of bringing the light of divine inspiration to those who catch even a glimpse of it, while reducing rich farmland to a barren waste, if treated improperly.

The Third Treasure is, above all things, the vessel of life.

And the cup which dispenses life, may withhold it in equal measure.

How could it be otherwise?

Spades • Clubs • Hearts • Diamonds

The Four Treasures were brought to our world in a time long before memory.

Perhaps it really was the Tuatha Dé Danann who carried them to us, from cities more beautiful than we could ever imagine.  Perhaps it was the gods of the Greeks, or the one worshipped by the twelve tribes of Israel and their descendants.  Maybe all the stories are true (as they tend to be), or none of them.

I don’t know.

What I believe is that the Treasures came to our world, and they changed it.

And they changed us.

I have read a few interpretations of the old stories that would suggest that the Cauldron exists within us.  I don’t know if the ancients believed that, but it makes a kind of sense to me.

The Third Treasure is, above all things, the vessel of life.

And what better description could there be for the human heart?

The heart dispenses the stuff of life to the whole of our bodies.  It has the power to inspire us to great deeds and to light the fires of love within us.  Sometimes, when all the world seems arrayed against us, it is only through the power of a determined heart that we are sustained.

We are nourished by the heart within us, and the many hearts we encounter in our life journey.

But we must be cautious.

The lore warns us that the objects of the gods are perilous in the wrong hands.  The heart that warms and sustains us one moment, may make a desert of our life in the next.  The human heart has its own mythology, but its power remains the same, and the cup which dispenses life, may withhold it in equal measure.

Heart, Cup and Cauldron: The Third Treasure of the Tuatha Dé Danann is weighing heavily on my mind come this week of Thanksgiving.  I will write about the other three Treasures in due time, but for now I ask that you be mindful of that sacred vessel within you.  The power of the gods beats within your chest, and through it you may nourish the hungry and quench the thirst of the most parched wanderer.

Or you may withhold its power and make of your life a desert that stretches beyond the limits of your sight.

Such is the power of the Third Treasure.

Such is the power in you.

1 Comment

Filed under Celtic Polytheism, Holidays, Ireland, Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Spiritual Journey, The Gods

One response to “The Third Treasure

  1. Pingback: The Final Treasure | Stone of Destiny

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