The evolution of the world has been constant ever since the beginning of time. Thus, things change always; we miss things that used to take place in the past. Yet, we get to live with new advancements that weren’t there back then, habitually.
What we missed out on that trended during the ancient times was the worshipping of numerous divine figures.
Polytheism; that is what it’s called; in fact, it was the ongoing religion of that time. It was the most popular religion in society, nevertheless, it was that of the Celtic community.
Some of the deities worshipped were common between different cultures, yet the Celts had Celtic gods of their own. There is a lot about polytheism to learn and the way it affected the Celtic community culturally and traditionally.
Who are the Celts?
The Celts are an Indo-European ethnic group in Europe; they are also referred to as the Celtic communities. They used to speak the Celtic language; some of them still partially do, and they share some similarities in terms of culture.
The Celtic world includes Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall, Wales, Isle of Man, Galicia and more. In some cases, people refer to them as the Gaels or the Gaelic society. Those communities share many aspects despite their differences, including mythology, customs, and religion.
They embraced polytheism as their main religion; moreover, they shared the same gods and goddesses as well. For that, those deities were rather known as the Celtic gods and goddesses. However, that was long before the arrival of Christianity. Currently, the majority of people with Celtic roots are Christians.
Different Groups of Celtic People
People mistakenly believe that the Celts is a reference to the Irish. However, there are more to Celts than just Ireland. In modern times, we all recognise six different Celtic people around the world. Those six types of Celts go under two main umbrellas, either Brythonic Celts or the Gaelic Celts.
The former is rather known as the British and they include people of Cornwall, Wales, and Brittany. Also, people refer to them, respectively, as the Cornish, Welsh, and Bretons.
On the other hand, the Gaelic Celts include Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, known as the Manx. There are some sayings around the existence of a seventh Celtic nation in Spanish Galicia. However, these people no longer use the Celtic language at all, thus the evidence of them being Celts is a bit shaky.
Modern Celtic People and their Symbols
Ever heard of the Celtic symbols? Well, it may sound a bit weird but it is a method the Celts use to recognise one another. Not only do they know each other, but they also learn from which Celtic group one descends. This method is developed by the Celts. Generally, the Celts were fond of arts and patterns; they used art to express themselves. There were also specific instruments that they were popular for, especially the harp.
While evolving a symbol for each Celtic group, they used icons that perfectly identify with them. For example, the Welsh flag is in green and white with a red dragon and a daffodil. On the other hand, you can find the Scottish symbol consisting of thistles and tartans. The Irish symbol is either a shamrock with three leaves or a harp.
The Role of Polytheism in Celtic Mythology in Celtic Mythology
Polytheism means worshipping several deities. The word Poly itself is a Latin one that means “Many”. Thus, religions of the modern times are rather known as “Monotheism”, for people worship only a specific god. Those times before the arrival of Christianity are also known as the Pagan times. It’s another word for Polytheism; Paganism.
Mythology, in general, played a significant role in shaping cultures and customs. It also goes the other way around where mythology is also affected by societal beliefs. While skimming through the Irish mythology, you can’t help but find a long list of Celtic gods and goddesses. Each and every one of them had their own role.
Major Celtic Gods and Goddesses
Practically, there was either a god or goddess for almost everything in life. Thus, there were too many of them to keep track of. However, some of them were actually more powerful than others; thus, becoming part of the Celtic mythology effortlessly. There might even be more ones that we haven’t heard of as they never made it to our modern times.
But, here are the major Celtic gods that you need to learn about. You’ll get to know all behind Celtic gods and goddesses, the meaning of their names, and their roles in mythology.
Just so we can be clear, paganism still exist in our modern times. Just at a much lower rate than it used to be a long time before the arrival of Christianity. So, the Celtic gods and goddesses you are about to learn of are still part of modern Pagan practice.
The Daghda (The Father God of Ireland)
Either known as the Daghda or the Dagda. He is one of the most important Celtic gods in Irish mythology, being the father-figure of all gods and goddesses. The Daghda is one of the Tuatha de Dannan, a mythological race of supernatural gods and goddesses. Tuatha de Dannan translates into the Tribe of Goddess Danu. The latter happens to be the mother-figure of the Celtic gods.
Going back to the Dagda, he was popular for controlling life and death. That alone gave him power over almost everything yet he was known for his wisdom and strength. Moreover, the Dagda was linked to fertility and magic. He also happened to have control over the seasons and time as well as the crops and weather.
Another thing that Celtic gods were actually popular for was owning magical stuff. The Dagda owned three main things; a magical harp, a magic club, and a cauldron. The magical harp was capable of changing the seasons and controlling people’s emotions.
Secondly, he had a magical stick, its two ends were responsible for killing or resurrecting. No wonder he had power over one’s life and death. Lastly, he had a cauldron that never ran empty, no matter how much he used it.
The Etymology of the Name
Since all Celtic gods’ names have a meaning, the Dagda is no exception. Generally speaking, his name means the Good God and some claim that it also means the Great God.
In the Proto-Indo-European language, there is the word “Dhagho-deiwos”. A lot believe that the Dagda is actually one derivation of that word which means the shining divinity. The first part of the word actually sounds like the English word “Day”. Well, this actually sounds a bit rational since the Celtic God Daghda was identified with his ability to change time and weather.
The Portrayal of the Daghda
Usually, Celtic gods from different cultures share similarities causing people to link between them. While the Dagda was one of the Celtic gods of agriculture and wisdom, he had counterparts from other cultures.
This includes god Odin- the Germanic God, Dis Pater- the Roman God, and Sucellos- the Gaulish God. While reading the Celtic mythology, you will always find the description of the Dagda is all about size and power.
Legends have it that the Dagda was a large man who emitted mystery through his hooded cloak. He also had a large beard that made his facial features less visible, creating even more mystery.
Since there was a father-figure, there was definitely a mother one as well. As we previously mentioned, Goddess Danu was the mother of the Celtic gods. She is also one of the most ancient Celtic gods and quite popular.
However, she had not appeared in many stories despite her popularity and significance in Celtic mythology. Danu was actually the goddess of earth and fertility. Tuathe de Dannan, the famous race of supernatural Celtic gods, is the tribe of this goddess.
She also hid that side of her of being a sturdy warrior goddess. Her name “dan” rooted from ancient Irish words, meaning skill, art, and poetry.
Goddess Danu appeared in small roles in different stories. None of the stories in which she had main roles survived, but her characteristics were pieced together.
Some legends claim that she is the mother of the Celtic god the Dagda. That was narrated in a story where Goddess Danu appeared with the god of light and healing, Bile. The latter was a pure representation of a holy oak tree; Danu was to nurture that tree and feed it. Their union gave rise to the birth of the Dagda, according to legends.
A Brief about the Tuatha de Dannan
Since we’ve mentioned this race more than once, it is time to give a brief story about who they were. Tuatha de Dannan were a group of Celtic gods and goddesses who descended from Nemed.
Originally, they were Irish people, but they were exiled, scattered all around the world. When Danu learned about them, she offered them her support. They lived under her patronage where they learned magical skills and mended their broken strength.
From Goddess Danu, they learned wisdom and magic which they used to go back to Ireland. The Tuatha de Dannaan were popular for being skilful at more than a few things, including art, craftsmanship, and magic.
When they decided to go back to their homeland, Ireland, they travelled on a magical mist. It was said that this mist was metaphorically Danu’s embrace for the tribe. That actually showed her endless support for them and how she helped them in regaining their power and wisdom.
This is yet another thing that shows Danu’s nurturing nature. Later on, the Celtic gods and goddesses of the Tuaths were sent underground into what’s known as the sidhe.
Lugh The Celtic God of Sun (Master of Skills)
Among the many Celtic gods, there were lies the master of skills, God Lugh. His several skills were the reason he had more than one name. However, Lugh was the one he was popular for.
Those names include Lugh of the Long Arm, the Fierce Striker, Skilled in all arts, and the Skillful hand. Apparently, all of his skills involved around using his strong arms. His name is written in different ways either Lugh, Lugos, or Lugus. It is pronounced as Loo.
According to the ancient Romans, they believed there is a link between Celtic God Lugh and Roman God Mercury. They were also the ones to associate him with Hermes, the Greek God.
Lugh is the Celtic god of sun and storms, thunderstorms, in particular. He was also a powerful warrior who possessed many skills and happened to be one of the major Celtic gods.
Lugh is one of the Celtic gods that are still honoured by modern pagans. He also owned several animals, including a magic hound, raven, lynx, and crow. Aside from animals, Lugh possessed more than a few magical weapons, including an invincible Spear. That was actually one of the treasures of the Tuatha de Danann.
It is also the reason Lugh is known for having a long and sturdy arm. He used the spear to hit his target and it never misses it. Moreover, the spear itself was gory that it could fight on its own.
Lugh’s Family Members of Celtic Gods
Celtic Gods are actually related to one another. Lugh is related to Goddess Danu since his father was Cian who happened to be Danu’s own son. Thus, Danu was his paternal grandmother and his grandfather was Dian Cécht of the Tuatha de Dannan. Lugh’s mother was Ethniu; a half-Fomorian whose father was Balor, the leader of the Fomorians.
Lugh’s grandfather was rather known as Balor of the Evil Eye. According to the legends, Balor knew at some point that his own grandson would murder him someday. Thus, he wanted to make sure his only daughter, Ethniu, wouldn’t get pregnant.
He had to lock her up in a tower far away from people’s eyes. However, Cian managed to find her and to upset Balor even more, he released her. Ethniu and Cian had an affair that resulted in her giving birth to three baby boys.
When Balor learned about his grandchildren, he planned for their murder. He actually did kill the babies, but only one was miraculously saved and he was Lugh. Balor never knew that his grandson was alive, for Tailtiu, a Fir Bolg, took and raised him. The truth was only revealed when Lugh actually managed to murder his grandfather.
Other members of Lugh’s family were his own wives. Lugh married many women and had many children. His wives include the two daughters of King of Britain, Ruadri, Nas and Bui.
He also married Rosmerta, Echtach, and Englic. Lugh also had several children yet his most famous one was Cu Chulainn. The latter was rather known as the Irish Hulk for being a fierce warrior. He is one of the popular figures in the Celtic mythology.
The Story of the Hall of Tara
Being one of the Celtic gods, Lugh grew up realising he had too many skills. He was capable of doing almost everything. Thus, he wanted to join the Tuatha de Dannan whom Nuada of their High King at that time. He headed to the Hall of Tara, asking to join the king’s court, but the guard at the door did not let him in.
The guard claimed that he can only let him in if his skills were in use to the king. Lugh started listing his skills only to hear the guard saying they already had experts in all of those skills. However, the guard granted him access when he claimed that he was one man with all of those skills. Lugh was a physician, champion, historian, poet, wright, smith, sorcerer, and more.
Now that he was one of the Tuatha de Dannan, he joined in battles against the Fomorians. Little did he know that the leader of the Fomorians, Balor, was his own grandfather. In the Second Battle of Mag Tuireadh, Balor murdered the High King of the Tuatha de Dannan, Nuada. Lugh avenged his leader’s death and he was the only one who managed to kill Balor despite his poisonous eyes. After that, Lugh, the Celtic god of the sun, became the High King of Ireland.
The Harvest Fair of Lughnasadh
The Celtic world celebrates four different festivals that fall right into the four seasons of the year. They are mostly related to Celtic gods or goddesses and one of them is linked to God Lugh, Lughnasadh Festival. In honour of his foster mother, Tailtiu, he held a harvest fair. It takes place in August 1st and its name translates into The Festival of Lugh.
One more thing, the month of August in Irish is called Lunasa. No wonder the month is highly related to God Lugh. This is exactly the first harvest of the year that takes place in the Northern Hemisphere. At that time, they celebrated the symbols of the harvest, grains, corn, and bread. The celebration usually includes singing, dancing, and lighting bonfires.
The Morrighan (The Celtic Goddess of Battle and War)
The Morrighan is one of the major Celtic Goddesses who is associated with wars and battles. Also known as Morrigu, Morrigan, and Mor-Rioghain.
In Celtic mythology, she is popular for taking the form of either a raven or a crow. Sometimes, she is seen accompanying a group of them. However, some stories of the Ulster Cycle claim that she turns into a cow and a wolf rather than a crow. Her connection with these specific animals advocates that she might as well be the Goddess of fertility and land.
Legends claim that she is actually a triple goddess, but there was no evidence upon that claim. Yet, those stories that claim so featured her with two sisters, the Badb and Macha.
Despite her popularity as the war goddess, some scholars believe her connection to war was only a form of protection. Some legends refer to her as “The Washer at the Ford”. That’s because she was the sign of death to warriors if one saw her washing his armour. It was a sign that he was going to die on that day.
Etymology of the Name
The term “The Morrighan” translates into the Phantom Queen. Scholars also suggest that this term can be translated into the Great Queen. In fact, the meaning fits the portrayal of this Celtic Goddess since she powerfully represents the circle of life. Aside from being a queen, she was famous for shifting her shape into a crow and watch over the rivers and lakes.
The Morrigan is the term given to Goddess Morrigan, one of the triple Goddesses in Celtic mythology. She represented the circle of life and was associated with both birth and death. Her name translates to “great queen” or “phantom queen”. She was a shape-shifter and looked over the rivers, fresh water and lakes. She is also described as being the patroness of revenge, magic, priestesses, night, prophecy and witches.
Identifying the Morrighan with Other Celtic Goddesses
Mary Jones of the Celtic Literature Collective had an opinion regarding the triple goddess the Morrighan. She believes that this Celtic Goddess, in particular, is a complex figure in Irish mythology.
In the book Lebor Gebala Erenn, there are three different versions yet they all feature the three sisters. Badb, Macha, and Anann were the three sisters. In each version, the Morrighan is identified with one of them.
For example, Anann is identified with the Morrighan in the Leinster Version yet it was Macha in the Fermoy version. Thus, the Morrighan was not one of three Goddess sister, but it was a name applied to those three sisters. Each woman of them becomes the Morrighan in different manuscripts.
Another source claims that the number three has a tremendous significance in Celtic mythology. That could be one reason why The Morrighan sometimes appears in the form of three sisters. However, there are times when she actually appears as a singular figure.
Invocation of the Morrighan
There are beliefs that everyone has the power to invoke a deity. Pretty much sounds like summoning a devil or some kind of a supernatural creature. Not all cultures share the same belief as invocations. The reasons for doing such a thing is quite ambiguous. But, it can be interpreted easily that some people believe invoking deities can help them in one way or another. Here are some famous words used to invoke the Morrighan in particular:
Morrigan Morrigan three times three,
Hear the words I ask of thee.
Grant me vision, Grant me power,
Cheer me in my darkest hour.
As the night overtakes the day,
Morrigan Morrigan light my way.
Morrigan Morrigan Raven Queen,
Round & round the Hawthorn green.
Queen of beauty, Queen of Art,
Yours my body, Yours my heart.
All my trust I place in thee,
Morrigan Morrigan Be with me.
Brigid, the Celtic Goddess of Hearth and Home
Goddess Brigid was originally known as the Goddess of the Sun. Her name differs from one culture to another. According to Celtic mythology, she was born with a flame bursting out of her head.
There is also a claim that she was born during the sunrise. Thus, in many historical and mythological books, you will come across pictures of Goddess Brigid with red hair. Apparently, this portrayal is inspired by the sources that claim her as the Sun Goddess.
Her worshippers believed that her power stemmed from using fires. However, they also believed her to be the patroness of fertility, arts, agriculture, healing, and prophecy.
Like many other Celtic gods and goddesses, she was popular for having three different figures. Thus, worshippers used to call her the Triple Goddess. They believed that each figure of hers used her fires for either inspiration, forge, or hearth.
Some people also refer to her as the Goddess of the Well. The reason behind that is that there’s a story that ties her to a holy well in Kildare. We will discuss this shortly in details.
Brigid’s Family Members of Celtic Gods and Goddesses
Brigid’s father was the Daghda, like we previously mentioned, he was the druid of the Tuatha De Danann. She had two brothers who were also Celtic gods and members of the Tuatha de Danann.
One of them was Bodb Derg; he became the king of the Tuaths after they dashed into the sidhe. Her other brother was the Celtic God of love and youth, Oengus mac ind-Og. He was also known as Angus.
She also had a son, Ruadan, from her Fomorian husband, Bres. Her marriage from one of her family’s enemies put her in an intermediary position. Both sides were fighting over the ruling of Ireland yet it was the reason she lost her only son.
Tuatha de Danann were the ones to teach Ruadan how to make weapons. However, during the battle, he chose his paternal side and ended up wounding the black smith of the Tuaths.
It backfired at him when the Black Smith retaliated and his power sent Ruadan to the grave immediately. That was the time Brigid mourned the death of her son. She was the first to ever introduce the keening into Ireland.
What is the “Keening”?
Keening is the act of yelling and crying loudly over the body of the deceased. It was a method used only by women to express grief and mourn the dead. Before Goddess Brigid’s first keening song, it was deemed an unacceptable behaviour around Ireland.
The Keening was structured into three different parts. It started with a salutation, proceeded with a verse, and then the cry took place. Women also used a manuscript or a song while grieving.
It is hard to find any recorded tracks of keening since it is an ancient ritual that barely exists now.
However, by the time recording was available, the act itself was seen as a backward superstition of the Pagans. Besides, it was utterly unacceptable to do the keen without the presence of a dead body.
This act definitely sounds too bizarre for different cultures. However, the Celtic cultures believed in the Keening so much. The main objective of such an act is totally linked to some Pagan beliefs. Back then, people believed that the keener used her voice to guide the deceased into the other world.
In other words, keening aided in travelling through the parallel worlds of the spirits. She made sure the deceased’s soul arrived safely to the next world.
Keening in the Celtic Mythology
In Celtic mythology, the Keening method was usually allied with the most feared creature in Ireland, the Banshee. The name itself sends some ghastly vibes; it derives from the Irish word “Bean sí” which means the Fairy Dunes. Banshee is a spirit; a female one, in particular, that people deem as the omen of death.
According to mythology, she has long dark hair through which she constantly runs a comb. Probably, that is why the comb symbol is usually identified with the Banshee. Despite the spooky depiction of her appearance, she had the ability to show up as a young beautiful woman. However, she was more heard than ever seen.
The relation between the Banshee and the keening is that her spirit roams randomly, especially in the countryside, wailing. She cries out and howls when she is expecting the death of someone nearby. People who were about to die heard her sobbing at night.
There was also a claim that the Banshee only appears for certain Irish families whose last names started with O’. Those families included the O’Connors, O’Briens, O’Gradys, and O’Neills.
Different Names of Goddess Brigid
Celtic gods and goddesses are known to have more than a few names depending on the variations between cultures. Goddess Brigid is usually written either Brigid or Brighid.
In Irish mythology, she rather appeared as Brigit. However, she appeared as Bride in Scotland, Brigantia in Northern England, and Brigandu in Brittany. Those various names explain her many titles.
These include Bride the Beautiful, Brigit of the Slim Fairy Folk, and Brigit of the Green Mantle. Some documents describe her as Brigh, meaning the Power, The Fiery Arrow, Lady of the Shores, and Flame of Ireland.
There were times when people referred to her as the Goddess of the Well. Until this day, people still tie the rituals performed at wells around Ireland to her.
The Story Behind the Sacred Well
Goddess Brigid was also known to have powers over other elements than fire, including water. She was popular as either the Goddess of Sun and Fire or the Goddess of Water. This fact had connected her to most of the wells that produce lively waters to the surrounding trees.
Those wells are rather known as the “womb of Mother Earth”. The significance of the wells dates back to the pagan era. And, the most momentous well exist near a large tree in Co. Kildare. Worshippers headed there between dusk and dawn, thinking it was when the barriers of the Otherworld were the slimmest.
For some reason, most of the wells around Ireland are linked to Goddess Brigid. Probably for her connection to the waters. Worshippers perform a pilgrimage to those Brigid’s wells on the first Sunday in August on a monthly basis.
This day is popular for being the Lughnasadh Festival; the Harvest Fair of God Lugh, as we previously mentioned. Despite being a pagan ritual, most of them are Christianized and are still performed to this very day.
The Intertwined Story of the Goddess-Saint Brigid
Through the Pagan times, Brigid was the Goddess of so many elements and, for that, she was worshipped. Eventually, Brigid started showing up rather as the Catholic Saint of Kildare than the Celtic Goddess of Hearth.
People were kind of confused by that transformation, finding it hard to connect the missing dots between the two characters. Scholars have finally confirmed that the two mythological characters are actually the same person.
Not only because both characters bear the same characteristics and traits, but also for the timing of the transition. By the time Brigid started being described as a Saint and not a Goddess, Christianity had already arrived in Ireland.
Well, when Europe turned into a Christianized world, there was no room for the pantheon of gods to survive. Paganism was no longer accepted and the worship of external gods not mentioned in Christianity was banned.
Thus, Brigid became the Catholic Saint of Kildare. The story of her transition states that when Christianity arrived, she was afraid that her followers would abandon her. Therefore, she transformed herself into a saint, so she’d turn her worshippers into followers.
The Peak of Saint Brigid’s Popularity
Since she was originally a Goddess, Saint Brigid was popular for having supernatural powers. She managed to keep her powers despite the transition. That aided in surging her popularity, for she used her powers to perform miracles.
She also contributed to the healing of infinite ailed people. Her powers spread her popularity outside the borders of County Kildare in no time. Since pagan practices and rituals were no longer accepted, people had the impulse to identify her with the Virgin Mary. This identification resulted in naming her as Mary of the Gaels or the Foster Mother of Jesus.
In spite of the disappearances of many Pagan practices, some of them remained floating on the horizon. This includes the Celtic Festival of Imbolc, a festive day in the Celtic Calendar. It takes place on February 1st, and sometimes on Feb 2nd in different cultures.
Imbolc was a significant event in Paganism since it was all about worshipping the Celtic goddess Brigid. Coincidently, it happens to be the same day where the St. Brigid Feast Day takes place. Honestly, it does not seem like a coincidence at all since both characters are supposed to be the same figure.
Anyhow, people in Ireland still celebrate on this day, dancing and singing. There are also rituals that come to pass on that festival, including making Crosses of St. Brigid out of reeds. Those crosses are one of the symbols of Goddess Brigid that people believe it brings luck and protects their homes.
The Imbolc Celebration “St. Brigid’s Feast Day”
People in the Celtic world refer to this day with various names, including Imbolc, Imbolg, St. Brigid’s Day, or Cross-Quarter Day.
It is one of the four Celtic festivals that marks the beginning of Spring. The celebration can happen on any day between the 2nd and the 7th of February. However, it’s usually referred to it on the 2nd of February since it usually marks the beginning of the season.
People have been celebrating Imbolc since ancient times and all the way to our modern days. It is also the time when sheep start to lactate and the grass starts growing. This explains the name of the festival which derives from “Imbolg”. It’s an Old Irish word that means “in the belly”, as the sheep start having their udders filled.
Superstitions of Spring Cleaning
People in the ancient times used to believe that Goddess Brigid walked on the land during the Imbolc season. Thus, they had customs around that belief that includes cleaning their houses during Spring.
On the first of February, people used to lit a fire overnight and leave the door open. They believed that Goddess Brigid would come and bless the home that way. Also, they left a hearth at the door and searched for signs that the Goddess had truly passed by. Right after, they would clean the whole house and light a new fire to welcome the beginning of the new season.
Symbols of Goddess Brigid
Numerous of the Celtic Gods and Goddesses have symbols that they bear a connection to. Goddess Brigid is no exception. In fact, she has several symbols that people usually link them to her.
The most popular one amongst them all is the Imbolc Cross that people make on her holiday. Yet, it is not the only symbol there is. Here are more symbols related to the Flaming Goddess of Sun and Fire.
On the festival day of Imbolc, people make small crosses out of rushes and reed. The cross is relatively small with four arms tied to a little square in the middle. Some people identify it with the Christian cross; however, this tradition goes way back to the pre-Christian eras.
There are two versions regarding the cross’s originality; one related to the Goddess and the other to the Saint. According to the Pagans, people used to make this cross as an attribute to their Goddess. They believed it used to protect the houses from fire when placed around.
The Christian version of the story state the cross was plaited into this form at the deathbed of a pagan lord. There is also another version that claims the dying man was actually her own father.
The story states that when that pagan chieftain was on his last legs, he called for St. Brigid to come over. He asked her to tell him all she knew about Christ. Brigid arrived at his household, sat next to him, and started knitting the rushes on the floor into a cross.
She used it to explain to him the meaning of the Christian cross and told him all she knew. He asked her to baptize him before he left the building. And, that was another version of the story.
The Flame and the Water
Needless to say, people use those two symbols to identify Goddess Brigid. After all, she was the goddess of both elements. The fire or the flame signified the fact that Goddess Brigid was born with a fire burning out of her head.
Her depiction usually involves a beautiful woman with shiny red hair. On the other hand, the water signifies the power of healing and divination. It also links to her association with the sacred wells.
The Milky Way
The Celtic Mythology claims that when Brigid was a newborn, the Milky Way actually nourished her. There is also other versions of the story that claim there was a Cosmic Cow that nourished baby Brigid. The depiction of the cow claimed it was white in colour with red ears, having the colours of a fairy cow.
The Tree Symbol
Worshippers usually used the symbol of the moon as a sign to the Triple Goddess, one of Brigid’s aspects. Her worship usually involved a silhouetted tree behind which there was an image of the moon.
Trees are also associated with Goddess Brigid more often for different reasons. One of those reasons was the existence of what was known as Fairy Trees. Those trees are usually found around the holy wells of Kildare; the ones that are usually related to the Goddess.
The Pagan practices involved tying a clootie to the tree’s branches after soaking it in the water of the well. Another reason that identifies Brigid with the tree was during her transition into a saint. She built a small Church under an oak tree in Kildare. The Church is popular under her name, St. Brigid’s Church of Kildare.
Nine White Stones
Those nine stones refer to the nineteen priestesses that attended to Goddess Brigid. The white colour signifies the fact that they were all virgins. Later, they became nuns during the transition of the Goddess into a Saint. During the Christian era, Saint Brigid attended a shrine at Co. Kildare.
It was the same place on which she built her own church under the oak tree. According to other versions of the story, she received the church from a chieftain rather than built it herself.
At that shrine, Brigid collected nineteen female virgins and called them Daughters of the Flame. The priestesses surrounded the bonfire. They had a tradition of watching the sacred fire for a whole 20 days.
Each of the nineteen virgins was in charge on each day until the 20th day arrive and Brigid herself got in charge. They managed to keep the flame eternally burning throughout the whole duration. That ritual took place both before and after Christianity.
Males were never allowed to come near the Abbey of St. Brigid of Kildare. This policy enraged a Bishop at some point. He believed that the nuns were inferiors to priests and ordered them to open the abbey for inspection.
However, the nineteen nuns rebuffed and denied him access; they requested a female official to perform any inspections. That act infuriated the Bishop even more; thus, he claimed the custom to be a Pagan one that must stop. He ordered to extinguish the fire.
The Harp is a significant symbol in the Irish culture. It is one of the most popular musical instruments in Ireland alongside the Bodhran Drums.
Surprisingly, there is a link between the harp symbol and Goddess Brigid. Here’s the deal; Goddess Brigid is a Triple Goddess where each figure is responsible for a thing. One aspect of the Triple Goddess is an inspiration.
Goddess Brigid was popular for inspiring souls to perform better. According to Celtic mythology, she uses the harp to play divine music that inspires the listeners. She nourishes the souls and invokes their spiritual side with the artistic beauty found in her music.
The Anvil is a heavy tool that uses fire to inspire people into being what they’re destined to be.
People who worship Goddess Brigid firmly believe in this superstition. Despite the jeopardy of the tool, they use it to invite the Goddess to help them use their unrealized skills.
There are strong beliefs that Goddess Brigid is the reason behind our creative transformation. Yet, they know that the process is never easy and obstacles will be there to hinder their progress.
Prayers to Goddess Brigid
Every day, every night
That I praise the Goddess,
I know I will be safe;
I know I will not be caught
I shall not be harmed.
Fire, sun and moon
Cannot burn me.
Fairy arrow cannot pierce me.
I am safe, safe, safe,
Singing Her praises.
Brigid, gold-red woman,
Brigid, flame and honeycomb,
Brigid, sun of womanhood,
Brigid, lead me home.
You are a branch in blossom.
You are a sheltering dome.
You are my bright precious freedom.
Brigid, lead me home.
Cailleach the Celtic Goddess of Winter
Cailleach is one of the deities found in Irish and Scottish mythology, in particular. Thus, scholars barely consider her a Celtic figure since she is absent in some Celtic regions like Wales.
Instead, she is popular among the Gaelic cultures yet she has different names depending on the regions. Despite the region where she appears, her identity is more often about winter and her portrayal includes a hag.
Like most of the other Celtic gods and goddesses, she shows up with multiple associations. Even her name varies as, in Scotland, she is Cailleach Bheur while in Ireland, she is Cailleach Beare.
According to mythology, Cailleach is a destroyer goddess and a storm bringer. She appears in the late days of Fall to prepare for the arrival of Winter.
For that, people rather refer to her as the Dark Mother of Winter and, sometimes, as the hag. Unlike most of the Celtic gods and goddesses, the Cailleach’s depiction is neither eye-catchy nor beautiful. She usually appears as a single-eyed old woman with terrible teeth and knotted hair.
The Meaning of the Name Cailleach
The translation of the word “Cailleach” is “The Veiled One” in English. This makes sense since the visual depiction of these figures comes as an old woman covering her matted hair. However, she has other names depending on the folklore she appears in.
She’s popular as Beira in the Scottish Folklore, but her different name doesn’t change her identity as the winter Goddess.
What Irish Folklore and Legend Say about Cailleach?
Gaelic mythology claims that Cailleach passes through more than a few lifetimes, but in a bit different way. She ages in a backward cycle, starting all the way as a spooky-looking old woman until she becomes young and beautiful.
One of the reasons she’s associated with the darkness of winter is that she is usually born old in Samhain. She keeps getting younger until she becomes a fine-looking maiden by the arrival of the Beltane season.
But according to some stories, that is not the way this Goddess transforms from an old woman to a maiden. One story claims that her transformation happens when she, as an unsightly old woman meets a hero.
He treats her kindly despite her gruesome appearance. Thus, she turns into a beautiful woman as a reward for him. Other stories feature her as an old woman that turns into a grey stone until Beltane.
The colour blue usually symbolises Cailleach. According to the Irish myth, she has one blue eye and in the Scottish legends with a blue face. Not only does the blue colour identify her, but it also signifies the cruelty of the winter breeze.
Moreover, some Irish regions claim her as the Goddess of Sovereignty. They believe she has got the capabilities of offering kings the potentials to have power over their lands.
Moreover, she is popular for having a great number of foster children throughout her lifetime. The Irish believe that her grandchildren and great-grandchildren formed the tribes of their County Kerry.
Beira of the Scots
In Scotland, people refer to the Goddess of Winter as Beira. They believe that she is the counterpart of the summer months’ queen, Brigid Goddess. Just like the Irish folklore, Cailleach is a destroyer goddess and fearful one.
When the winter arrives and her reign starts, her subjects fearfully obey. Only until Spring approaches, they rebel against her. All creatures linger for the return of the other Celtic Gods and Goddesses through the other seasons. They long to get rid of Cailleach as soon as possible for her gruesome manners.
Beira the Creator
The Scots believe that Cailleach is somehow a creator as well. They don’t perceive her as solely a monster deity. Some people firmly believe she was the one behind the creation of many natural elements around Scotland.
In legends, she usually carries a magical hammer by which she either creates or destroys. According to the Scots, the Cailleach used her magical hammer in creating mountains and cairns all around the country.
This actually links the story of the Loch Awe creation with Beira’s magical abilities. In Agryll, there is a popular well on top of Ben Cruachan that Cailleach was responsible for.
She used to cover the well with a stone every night to cease the water flow until the next morning. One night, Cailleach was too exhausted that she fell asleep sooner than she should have. She left the well uncovered and the flow kept going on.
It broke through the country and mistakenly created what we call today Loch Awe. However, there were catastrophic incidents with people and animal drowning in the water. When Beira woke up to the realization of what she had done, she transformed into a stone.
Beira the Protector of the Wild
You might have had the impression that Cailleach is a monster Celtic goddess or a scary one. In fact, most of the legends claim so, yet there are some better sides to her. For example, we have already mentioned that she created some scenic landscapes around Scotland.
Meaning that she used her magical hammer in performing good deeds as well. Her portrayal often involved her riding on the back of a wolf with that hammer in her hand.
There’s also a scarier version of such an image when she is seen holding a wand made of human flesh. She sometimes even wear human skulls by attaching them to her attire.
Just as much she is seen with her magical hammer, she is also associated with different wild animals. Especially wolves. Some stories in the Gaelic mythology state that she was the protector of wild animals, especially wolves and deer.
She usually protects them during the freezing breeze of the harsh season of winter. That way, she makes sure they could make it through the rough storms to the warming seasons that follow.
The Goddess of the Grain
Well, apparently there is more to that good side of the Cailleach than it seemed. Being a creator and animals protectors are some of her best traits.
Yet, there are more aspects that actually connect her to the natural world. This includes being the Goddess of the Grain Harvest. Yes, people sometimes do refer to her as such.
Some tales also claim her as the guardian of the life force as she nourishes every seed beneath the earth. She’s the one who brings the seeds to life during spring despite being the Goddess of the year’s dark half. Those aspects put her under the title of Goddess of Death and Resurrection.
People of the Gaels usually identify Cailleach with the last sheaf of the crop. They believed she had a vital role in promoting the success of the upcoming crops.
There is also a notion that is popular worldwide that the grain has a spirit. People around different parts of Europe, especially Ireland and Scotland, believe this spirit saves the seeds through the planting season.
That way, the spirit ensures the delivery of a successful crop. This spirit moves on during spring and returns back with the approach of winter.
Cernunnos the Celtic God of the Forest
Among the many Celtic gods lies Cernunnos of the Forest. He showed up numerous times in Celtic mythology. Usually, he has got a connection with male animals as well as fertility and vegetation.
With all the Celtic gods found in legends, rarely can you find ones with horns. Cernunnos is popular for having those mighty antlers along with wild hair and beard; that’s how his depiction is. This Celtic God is popular in many parts around Western Europe and the British Isles.
His portrayal with antlers makes him the master of the hunt. It is how scholar often refers to him as well. They also refer to him as the Protector of the Forest. In all cases, Cernunnos is among those Celtic gods who bear a sturdy connection to nature.
There are some rare traditions that perceive Cernunnos as the God of Death. They believe he had a role in consoling the deceased ones by singing to them. This helped in guiding them through their transferring to the spirit world.
The Meaning of the Name
In the Celtic language, the translation of Cernunnos into English was “Horned”. The same goes with as many languages as the scholars managed to find. Obviously, the depiction of the character was inspired by the meaning of his name.
Or, it could be the other way around; it is hard to figure which came before which. However, the depiction has been going down the same road since ancient times.
Some historians have even found a Gallo-Roman monument that dates back to the early 1st century CE. The name signifies portraying this God with antler of a stag; sometimes there are torcs hanging down from the antlers.
Identifying Cernunnos with the Green Man of the Celtic Mythology
For so many years, legends have been telling the infamous tale of the Green Man. Surprisingly, the Green Man is an aspect that belongs to one of the Celtic gods. The Green Man showed up in numerous forms throughout history.
However, the only constant that remained among all the depictions was the face. Legend has it that the Green Man’s face had plantation covering it; it also bulged out of his mouth. Aside from the unchanged depiction of appearance, the Green Man has gone through countless transformations.
Scholars have figured that it is hard to even out the origins of the mysterious deity. This figure is too far back to ever trace. However, people of the modern days still worship him and keep their memory ever lingering.
Such shrouds of mystery have forced scholars to believe the Green Man to be a pre-Christian entity. The oldest images there is date back long before the arrival of Christianity. It is also said that this deity is as old as the days before the Roman Empire. People back then regarded him as a nature spirit that showed up in a human form.
The Green Man was popular in the Roman Empire. Its popularity had even reached as far as some parts in the continent of Asia. However, the peak of its high status lied among the Celtic cultures and other European societies as France and Britain. Its images are found in a great number in these specific regions in today’s world.
The Relation between the Green Man and the Celtic Gods
Usually, gods in different cultures are identified with the entity of the Green Man. The deity differs from one culture to another. However, among the Celtic Gods, Cernunnos is the one depicted as the Green Man.
The reason that links between the Green Man and the Celtic gods is the connection with nature. Both of the Green Man entity and God Cernunnos are related to the forest and its greenery. The Green Man has the face of a middle-aged man and a body utterly covered in trees. His face was also surrounded by random flowers and leaves.
Such portrayals have left the Green Man seen as a symbol of growth and rebirth; a depiction of man’s life cycle. Those beliefs go back to a pagan notion that state humans were born from nature, hence the depiction of Cernunnos.
The downside of such a portrayal is the scholars’ misinterpretation of the horns as a symbol of the devil. With the arrival of Christianity, most of the churches started carving images of Satan as an entity with horns.
They looked much like those of Cernunnos, the Green Man. Thus, priests and saints entitled the Pagan followers of Cernunnos as “the devil worshippers”.
Honoring Cernunnos in Ritual
Pagans of the modern days still worship many Celtic Gods, including Cernunnos. There are some practices and rituals associated with the worship of the Celtic gods or goddesses.
Most of them include making offerings to the god through a method related to his identity. In this case, offerings made to Cernunnos usually include heading to a nearby forest or the woods. Because, after all, he is the God of the Wild and Forest among all the Celtic Gods. Before heading there, it’s important to take a goblet and fill it with either holy water, wine, or milk.
While standing in amidst the woods, start calling to God Cernunnos while pouring the liquid on the ground.
Other ways of worshipping and believing in Cernunnos may include some bizarre practices. The most followed method is rather referred to as the practice of ritual sex magic.
Such practice requires taking your significant other to the woods and start coupling with passion outdoor. That is one way to ask for Cernunnos bless for this union or to succeed in conceiving. Lastly, as a follower of the Celtic God, Cernunnos, you can use one of his symbols in decorating your place.
Celtic Symbols of God Cernunnos
Most, if not all, of the Celtic Gods and Goddesses, bear symbols that signify their individuality and distinctiveness. To Cernunnos, it can actually be quite easy to guess what symbolizes his mysterious identity.
They are mainly two and each of them has its own significance. Those two symbols are the horns and torcs. We will discuss the implication of each icon in details, shortly.
The Massive Horns of Cernunnos
Needless to say, the first thing you can’t help but notice while observing Cernunnos’ images is the horns. They erect massively out of his head.
According to the Celts, those horns speak dominance and male power at its finest. Their presence is quite enthralling and adds uniqueness to the appearance of this deity among all the Celtic gods.
It is easy to recognize Cernunnos even when seen for the first time. However, identifying him with the devil by the church was the only downside of those horns.
Their big sizes also represent the magnitude of his authority and power. In the wild world, animals with the largest antlers are deemed the strongest and most dominants. They use their horns as a means to their target and sometimes in mating rituals. Probably, that mating practice explains a lot about the association of the practice of ritual magic sex.
Clearly, his worshippers viewed him as a momentous deity among the Celtic gods. This was a popular perception among more than a few cultures. Another thing that the horns represent is the cycle of life.
This explains why some cultures view him as the God of rebirth. For the record, antlers grow and fall off continuously throughout the year, depending on the seasons. For example, they fall off during the autumn season and start re-growing to become full by spring.
The Hanging Torcs
Besides the presence of the horns, Cernunnos is often seen with torcs hanging down from them. Well, torcs are actually ancient jewellery piece that used to elaborate one’s status. For example, those who had more lavish pieces occupied higher ranks within their clans.
The same goes for the depiction of Cernunnos that way. The purpose was to unravel his high status and the presence of two of them boosted it even further.
A Prayer to Cernunnos
There are specific prayers made to almost all of the Celtic gods. Here is a prayer to Cernunnos in case you would love to make one or just out of curiosity.
God of the green,
Lord of the forest,
I offer you my sacrifice.
I ask you for your blessing.
You are the man in the trees,
the green man of the woods,
who brings life to the dawning spring.
You are the deer in rut,
mighty Horned One,
who roams the autumn woods,
the hunter circling round the oak,
the antlers of the wild stag,
and the lifeblood that spills upon
the ground each season.
God of the green,
Lord of the forest,
I offer you my sacrifice.
I ask you for your blessing.
Angus Og the Celtic God of Love and Beauty
With all the worshipped Celtic gods and goddess, Angus remains the one of Love and Beauty. His parents belonged to the Celtic gods and goddesses as well. He is the son of Bionn, the River Goddess, and the Daghda, the Father God.
People also regard Angus as the god of youth, for he was young and good-looking. Besides, the meaning of his name translates into “True Vigor” or “Real Energy”. It signifies his identification with youthfulness and the robustness associated with that time of one’s life.
Most of the birth stories of the Celtic Gods are quite weird. Yet, this one remains the oddest of them all. Legends claim that Angus Og was born in only one day; a rare miracle in the Celtic mythology.
The story starts with the forbidden affair between the Daghda and Bionn, the River Goddess. Their union resulted in Bionn becoming pregnant with Angus. They had to cover up their affair, thus, the Daghda decided to take charge of the conflict.
As the leader of the Celtic Gods, he had the power to control the weather and time. Consequently, he used his powers to make the sun remain for a whole nine months. The night never came through those months. According to people, Angus was born in a single day with four birds tweeting over his head.
The Story of Angus in the Celtic Mythology
Angus was one of the popular Celtic gods in the Celtic mythology, especially, the Irish one. One story claims that he tricked his father, so he can take over Bru na Boinne. The latter was the spiritual residence of the ruler of the Tuatha de Danann.
The Patron of Young Lovers
In ancient Ireland, people gave him the status of being the patron of young lovers. He managed to earn this status by loving a maiden he saw in his dreams. That girl was Caer Ibormeith; he fell in love with her before they met.
Thus, he fell sick desperate to find her. His mother wanted to help, so she looked for the girl all around Ireland. However, finding her was not an easy mission to carry out, so she turned to her husband for help. Unfortunately, the Daghda himself had no clue how to help. He had to call in his assistance, Bov the Red.
The latter was the king of the Danann’s of Munster. He was popular for being the master of secrecies and mysteries. As a consequence, he started searching for a whole year. After that time, he proclaimed of finding Angus’ girl at the Lake of the Dragon’s Mouth; she was a swan. Angus dashed to Bov and asked to take him to the lakeshore.
Upon arriving there, he found a great number of swans; all of them walked in a pair. There was a chain of gold linking every pair together; however, there was only one on its own. She was the tallest and all alone.
Angus transformed into a swan and together they flew away. Ever since people regarded swans as a symbol of love and eternity. Swans have been having a significance in the Celtic mythology in so many stories, including Children of Lir.
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