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, derived from the word "divana"the shining one".

The Irish goddess Anu also known as Danu, was a mother figure who accompanied the Dagda (genitive Danan). Irish mythology names these 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.

Mythological  deities in early history were adopted by pagan dynastic populations, some of which included the Ui Baircche, their mercenaries, the Loighis, the Delbna, the Cianachta (sons of Cian), and the Gaileanga and the Luighne. 

Nauda as a forename in Gaelic which means "cloud maker", and he is also 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, known as the "Claimh Solais" or 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 of Maolain, is recalling this mythological event in Irish literature.

Mythology is a strange and fascinating mixture of legend, truth and of course fiction. Many elements of these tales on the other hand contribute profoundly to identification of topographical areas occupied bt tribal groups who revered these dieties

Westmeath (Uisneach) and Brega (Tara)  are where our ancestors once dwelled as population clusters  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 in this website titled the Stone of Lugh.

Movement of Gaileanga and Luighne (Lugh) septs bearing surname variants of Maelan, Maolain and Mac Maolain are well recorded in the Irish Annals including baronies 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) if Brega and Meath 

The introduction of surnames commencing 10th century generated locational idenftfiers such as: Bailie Maolain alias McMullen in Co. Wexford, Ballymullen 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.

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).

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

Official heraldic sites display the crescent/sword combination for surname Mullen, Mullan, McMullan, McMullen  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) symbolic of: Warrior, Martyr, Military Strength

 Crescent Moon= Enlightened, Honored by his Sovereign 


Perhaps the most revealing evidence is how these crescents were also adopted by that branch of the Ui Neill (southern) who conquered ancient Brega (Meath) and Mide (Westmeath). Their territory inlcuded the family of Maelan, a chieftain who died in 1017AD. His son Laidcnen (Lynan Mac Maolain) married the daughter of the Got MaelSechalain (McLoughlin) whose coat of arms is given as:


Another family subservient to McLoughlin were of the Luighne, and located in the Barony of Lune Co. Meath, O'Braoin (Breen). This family disappeared as a clan following the Norman Invasion,  their last chieftain recorded in the 13th century:

M1201.8 Tadhg Ua Braoin tighearna Luighne Midhe d'écc. (translates as Teige O'Breen, Lord of Lune, in Meath, died.


The significance of these crescent as links to this topographic area, and native clusters who occupied it, is verified by the Norman families who eventually conquered and controlled Westmeath and the Meath baronies of Lune and Morgallion (Dillon and Preston (VIscount Gormanston), as they incorporated these same crescents into their new Irish coats of arms:


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

Mac Maoláin (

The historically registered motto attributed to 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 Ulster, the sept O'Mullan of Coleraine and Derry (Ui Neill Clan Drugain) display a completely different crest based on posted summaries of their historical overlords the O'Cathain, who suggest this one:


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



MacMullen in the  Galway/Roscommon area, aligned with the Ui Diarmada appear to have adopted a form of the Mac Diarmata (McDermot) crest as their family crest also: