Mac MaolŠin

 Origin of the Maoláin Crescent

Crescent of Danu


Diana (Dayna) in Roman mythology was the goddess of the hunt, associated with wild animals and the woodlands. She would later become a moon goddess supplanting Luna. Her symbol was the crescent. Worshipped mainly by women as the giver of fertility and birth, her name is thought originally to have been of Greek origin and derived from the word "divana"(the shining one)".

The Irish goddess Anu known also as Danu, was also a mother figure who accompanied the Dagda (genitive Danan). Irish mythology names these last and most favoured generation of deities as "the people of Danu or Dana (Tautha De Danan), also referred to as the shining onesDana (Dayna) was the pagan goddess who bestowed her name on these legendary early inhabitants of Ireland.

The mythical "Tauth De Dannan" connect in Irish mythology and  associated ancient  historical pedigrees  as topographically aligned, with groups such as the Fir Domnann of Leinster, the Laigin dynasty, the Cianacht (sons of Cian) the Fir Gallion (Gaileanga) and Luighne tribal clusters.

Mythological  alignments in early history adopted by dynastic populations included the Ui Baircche and their mercenary Loighis, the Eoghanacta, and the Delbna. 

Nauda as a forename in Gaelic means "cloud maker", and is found in the mythology of the Tauth De Danan. A unique aspect to Irish heraldry is that Gaelic symbols can also be literary in nature. An example being the sword of Nauda, King of the De Danann Gods. This sword known as the "Claimh Solais" (sword of light), was said to have mysterious powers and was one of the four treasures of the Tuatha de Danann.

Legend states Nauda lost his arm in battle, and since an Irish King could not be disfigured and still rule, had abdicate his throne.  His divine silversmith Dian Cech, then fashions a silver arm for him, attaching it with magic to his body. This allows him to reclaim the throne. The illustrated hand holding a sword in the crest, is recalling this mythological event in Irish literature.

Mythology is a strange and fascinating mixture of legend, some truth and of course fiction. Many elements of these tales on the other hand contribute profoundly to identification of topographical areas.

Westmeath (Uisneach) and Brega (Tara)  are where our ancestors once dwelled as population clusters that were associated with tribes of the Luighne and Gaileanga, For some appreciation of their mythological link to the "Tauth De Danan and the forename Lugh, go to the section titled the Stone of Lugh.

Movement of Gaileanga and Luighne (Lugh) septs bearing surname variants of Maelan, Maolain and Mac Maolain are recorded in the Irish Annals as well as townland and place names associated with them.

These native family verbal identifiers (Maelan, Maolain) suggested by most experts to have emerged between the 5th-10th centuries, surface in the dynastic territories of the Ui Baircche, the Leinster Laigin, the Connacta Ui Briuin and the Ui Neill (Southern).

The introduction of surnames commencing 10th century generated locational idenfifiers such as: Bailie Maolain alias McMullen in Co. Laois and Abbyleix, Bailie Maolain Kilclonfert Co. Offaly; Doire Maolain Ballinasloe, Baillie Maolain Loughrea, Ros Maolain Ballynakill Galway, Cluain Mhic Mhaolain Kilnamanagh Co. Roscommon, Baillie Moelan Ardee Co.Louth and the townland of Maelan Co. Cavan (part of Briefne Connacht pre plantation).

All these locales were inhabited at some point by septs (families) bearing a surname variant of Maelan, Maolain, Mailin, Mhic, Mac and Mic Maoláin (Mullen, Moylan, McMullen, McMullan, McMullin). They displayed the crescent of Danu on their banners, reflected their adoption of these cultural dieties.

Other Irish septs who display this crescent of Danu as part of their heraldic symbols are: Breen, O'Beirne, Cullen, Dolan, Haughey (=Eochaid), Kavanagh, Maher, Malen, Mannion, Mullally, Mullaney, Mulduin, Quinn, Rynne and the MacLoughlin Ui Neill kings of Tara.

Based on heraldry as an additional method of historic research, this may be suggestive of very ancient ethnic and military alliances. One example, the septs Mannion and Malen (sometimes recorded as Maeleainn, Million or O'Mellon Delvin (ClonMellon)) and O 'Mullen, located adjacent each other based on historical references in both Westmeath, Meath and also NE Galway. All display very similar crests.

O'Maolain (Mullen) Connacht and Mac Maolain McMullen) Leinster on all official heraldic sites are found represented with this crescent and the addition of the hand with a sword or dagger (Nauda) incorporated.

Heraldic description: Ar. dexter hand couped at the wrist in fess gu. holding a sword/dagger in pale proper between three crescents gu (gules

  Gules (Red) = Warrior, Martyr, Military Strength

 Crescent Moon= Enlightened, Honored by his Sovereign 

But perhaps the most revealing simularity is the crest attributed to that branch of the Ui Neill (southern) who were overlords of those areas occupied by Maelan d,1017. His son Laidcnen married the daughter of the Got MaelSechalain (McLoughlin Clan Cholmain) whose crest is given as:


MacLysaght first Chief Herald under the Government of Ireland (post 1921) designated many Gaelic families who had arms or banners which pre dated the creation of the office of the King of Arms as "Sept Arms" stating they could be used, undifferentiated, by anyone genuinely descended from those septs.  For Clan McMullen Leinster that crest is:

Mac Maoláin (

The historically registered motto attributed to Mac Maolain was:

English: "To Live is to Conquer",

Latin: "Vivere Sat Vincere",

Gaelic: "Ni Beatha Go Bua" (pronounced: Knee,  Bay-Ha,  Guh,  Boo-ah) 



To the north in the province of Ulster, the sept O'Mullan of Coleraine and Derry (said to be descendants of Ui Neill Clan Drugain), display a completely different crest based on summaries posted by their historical overlords the O'Cathain:


The O'Mellens/Mallons (Meallain and Mic Meallain of Clan Fergusa Tyrone, keepers of St Patricks Bell, also display a different crest as illustrated below.



The founding Royal family of the Fir Domnnan dynasty Caomanaich (Kavanagh) also adopted these ancient crescent symbols for their banner.


Earliest Irish pedigrees (Rawlinson) position Ui Maelan (Moylan, Mullen) as part of tribal clusters of Ui Bairrch Magh Ailbe said to be associated with Eochaid Guineach (Haughey), who also display this ancient crescent.