Dian Cécht was the god of healing for An Tuatha Dé Danann. He is most famous for making a silver prosthetic arm for King Nuada when he lost his arm in the first battle of Moytura. Nuada could no longer serve as King as he was not ‘whole’ and ready to defend his people. Bres was chosen to replace him, but he turned out to be a tyrant king who forced An Tuatha to pay taxes and work for the Fomorians.
Dian Cecht spent seven long years making King Nuada a silver arm which could move and function as a normal arm. Hence Nuada’s name – Nuada Airgetlám or Nuada of the silver arm. Nuada was restored to his rightful place as King and Bres was ousted.
However, Dian Cecht’s son, Miach, was said to be more skilful than his father and was able to magically create a better, biological arm for Nuada. It was alleged that Dian Cecht was so jealous that he struck Miach four times with his sword and eventually killed him.
It seems hard to believe that a man of such skill and powerful abilities would resort to jealousy and murder of his own son. It has been speculated that because most of the stories had been transcribed by Christian monks, that some are inaccurate as they believed that no one had the power to heal except God.
Airmed, Dian Cecht’s daughter, specialised in the healing properties of herbs. She gathered herbs and categorised them according to their use. Again, it was said that Dian Cecht, out of jealousy scattered them to all corners of Ireland so that no one would know their proper cures.
This is also doubtful as other stories say that the herbs were placed in the Well of Slaine, which could heal the injured and restore life to the mortally wounded. The well was built and presided over by Dian Cecht, his two sons Miach and Octriuil (also a physician), and his daughter Airmed.
They ministered to the injured by soaking them in the healing waters of the well during the Second Battle of Moytura. They also recited incantations over the waters to create an enchantment that could restore life to the warriors who were dipped into it.
The well was located northwest of the battlefield at Moytura at a place now known as ‘Heapstown Cairn’. The well was eventually abandoned, as the Fomorians filled it up with stones so that it couldn’t be used for healing. The legend goes that the site is still guarded by Dian Cécht, his sons and his daughter to this day.