It is sometimes said that the name of Ireland, Eriu, or Eire in modern Irish, is that of a sun goddess. Be that as it may, it is more certain that the great god of the preChristian Irish, Dagda, was solar in origin. Sean O'Faolain describes him this way: "He is of enormous size; he rules the weather and the crops; he is swift; he wields a deadly club, which may be lightning; he own a cauldron as inexhaustible as the cornucopia, and he is thought then to preside over the feasts of the Otherworld; he is very old and very wise, indeed he is the source of all wisdom, especially of occult wisdom." Nothing could be more natural in these northern latitudes than to deify the sun, the heavenly eye. The many stone alignments and megalithic graves to be found hereabouts are all oriented to significant points on the solar compass.
When Christianity came to Ireland in the 5th century A. D., it lay lightly over the older faith. Columbanus, John Eriugena and their disciples took a highly pantheistic Christianity back to the continent -- and were generally declared heretical. The preChristian Irish gave anthropomorphic characteristics to the sun; Mediterranean Christianity set anthropomorphism free of any natural referent. With the triumph of that abstract and otherworldly personal God, Dagda was relegated to the realm of "superstition," but, really, the wise old sun god at least had characteristics one could see and feel, especially after weeks of dreary mist when the sky clears and Dagda floods the green fields with warm, golden light.