The Celts were a polythestic culture. Celtic deities were tribal by nature and each tribe would have had their own names for their particular God and Goddess. This accounts for the great diversity of names found in the Celtic pantheon.
The early Celtic peoples believed that all life forms existed on three levels, as three integrated but separate beings co-habiting within a single being. To the celtic mind, the realms of body and mind were linked to the all pervading life force - the spirit. This accounts for the triple deities or the triple aspects of a deity often encountered in celtic mythology.
The following is an an introduction to the complex and multidimensional pantheon of Gods and Goddesses known and worshiped by the ancient Celts.
Some accounts give her as the daughter of Manannan Mac Llyr, God of the hidden paths in the realms of the western ocean, while others say that she was no other than the great Morrighan herself.
Within Aine we see the triple aspect of the Morrighan in the powers attributed to her. As the Maiden, she has the ability to reward her devotees with the gift of poetry or with unfortunate madness. As a Mother deity, Aine is associated with lakes and wells with great powers of healing. Tobar-Na-Aine (Well of Aine) was credited with life-restoring powers. In her third aspect of the dark Goddess, she has the ability to appear to mortal men as a woman of great beauty known as the leannan sidhé, which means "Fairy Lover".
God of youth, son of the Dagdha. Aonghus kisses turned into singing birds and the music he played irresistibily drew all who heard. Aonghus Mac Óg was also called the celtic eros because he became the archetype of Love, Youth and Beauty.
Badb, was a goddess of war. Bird shaped and crimson mouthed, she used her magic to decide battles. Badb lusted after men and was often seen at fords washing the armor and weapons of men about to die in combat. Badb is another of a triad of war goddesses known collectively as the Morrighan.
Brighid bhoidheach, Bride the beautiful. Brighid, or Bride, is the tutelary goddess of the Gaelic peoples of the western Isles, where she is still well loved and worshipped under the guise of the christian Saint Bridgid. She is the daughter of the Dagdha.
She is known by many different names, for her mysteries are many. She is the 'Lady of the Shores', for the shore is one of those magical in-between places that so fascinated the Celts. The shore is neither dry land, nor is it the sea, yet it is the meeting place of both.
Brighid is also known as the 'Two-Faced One'. In the legends she is described as having one side of her face black and ugly, while the other side is white and beautiful. The Mystery of Bride is to be found in the annual transformation of the cailleach, the hag of winter, into the fair maiden of Spring.
Brighid is the goddess of all arts and crafts, and as such she is the feminine principle of the Ildanach, the counterpart of Lugh. She represents the potential of all women for she is the eternal flame that burns in the heart and hearth of every woman of the Gael, 'moon-crowned Brighid of the undying flame'. This principle of the undying flame continued even after the coming of Christianity into Ireland. At the fifth century sanctuary of St. Bride of Kildare, the sacred fire within was attended by her devoted maidens and was never allowed to go out.
The name of this goddess originates from the Gaelic words Breo-Saighit, which means Fiery Arrow. The arrows of Brighid have many attributes. As goddess of bards, smiths and physicians she is the flame of poetical inspiration and of healing, and the fire of the divine forge.
Finally, as the Good Shepherdess who watches over her flock, Brighid presides over the cradle of the new born infant. It is a common practise for the women of the Isles to hang rowan crosses over their cradles whilst reciting a charm or prayer to Brighid to invoke her protection.
Cernunnos, known to all Celts as the "Horned God,". was the God of nature, virility, fertility, animals, reincarnation and shamanism. Known to the Druids as Hu Gadarn, Cernunnos wore a torc or neck-ring and always traveled in the company of a ram-headed serpent and a stag. He was also the God of the Underworld. Sometimes called the Hunter God, he is the god of plenty, wild animals, and the forest. In medieval times his image, as well as that of the gods Herne and Pan, were transferred to that of the Devil, possibly due to their close association with the "wild hunt" as the Lord of the Otherworld in which spirits of the dead are carried to the Otherworld.
Dagdha, Eochaid Ollathair ( Father of All), Ruadh Rofessa (The Red One, Lord of Occult Knowledge), Dagdha (the Good God). Many talented and powerful, master of the harp and possessor of a terrible double ended club, Dagdha possessed a bottomless cauldron of plenty and ruled the seasons with the music of his harp. With his mighty club, Dagdha could slay nine men with a single blow, and with its small end he could bring them back to life. He was the chief of the Tuatha Dé Danann and the father of Aonghus Mac Óg.
Danu, the Red Mother of All, Major Mother Goddess of Ireland, Mother of the Gods and Patroness of wizards, rivers, water, wells, prosperity and plenty, Magic and wisdom. Her children were the Tuatha Dé Danann, the tribe of the gods. Danu is one of a triad of war goddesses known collectively as the Morrighan.
The Goddess of Sovereignty (Banbha, Fodhla, Eriu). In celtic tradition, the king was wedded to the land, and the fate of one was the fate of both. The Favor of the Goddess could be gained by a heroic act or by being chosen (The Lia Fáil could do this).
Female deities who represented the sovereignty of the land were often referred to as the Goddess. At the time the Milesians arrived in Ireland, the triple Goddess of the land was represented by three great divine queens, known as Eriu, Banbha and Fodhla. These queens have all given their names to Ireland at one time or another, as promised to them by Amergin White knee, one of the sons of Mil. From Eriu we have taken the modern name for Ireland, Eire.
It is interesting to note that this Goddess would appear in one moment as a beautiful queen, and in the next as a sharp-beaked crow. Hence she is no other than the Morrigan, the most ancient Irish Goddess of them all.
Lugh, Sam ildanach the 'many skilled', was the grandson of Balor, the leader of the Fomhóire, and the son of Cian and Ethniu, a Sidhé princess.
Lugh was a sun god and a hero god, young, strong and radiant with hair of gold, master of all arts, skills and crafts. One day he arrived at the court of the Dagdha and demanded to be admitted to the company of the gods. The gatekepper asked him what powers he possessed that would make him worth of this honor. For every skill or art Lugh named, the gatekepper replied that there was already one among the company who had mastered it. Lugh at last pointed out that they had no one who had mastered them all, and so gained a place among the deities.
He replaced Nuadhu as the King and battle leader of the Tuatha Dé Danann and lead them to ultimate victory in the second Battle of Magh Tuireadh or Moytura. He is sometimes called the "Shining One" and/or Lugh Lamhfada of the "long arm". He also held the skills of carpentry, masonry, poetry, Druid, physician and goldsmithing. Lugh was also the father of the great Irish hero, Cúchulainn.
Macha the 'crow'. The third of the triad of war goddesses of the Morrighan, Macha fed on the heads of slain enemies. Macha often dominated her male lovers through cunning or simple brute strength.
Mannan mac Lyr was a God of the sea. He was always seen carrying "the Crane Bag", a magical horn of plenty, and he was known to roam among the celtic tribes in a disguise and aid them in their endeavors.
Mannan mac Lyr was a powerful God, associated with fertility, rebirth, weather, sailing and magic. He often traveled on a magical ship that moved without sails. his name was often linked to the Isle of Man.
Medb the 'drunk woman' was another goddess of war. Where the Morrighan used magic, Medb wielded a weapon and was a fierce fighter. The sight of Medb would blind her enemies, and she could faster than the fastest horse. Medb required thirty men a day to satisfy her sexual appetite.
Morrighan was the Dark aspect of the Celtic Triple Goddess. A hag with a demonic laugh, she appeared as a grotesque apparition, and would often show herself to men about to die in battle. (She would appear to them as the "Washer at the Ford," washing bloody laundry.)
She was the the Goddess of Battle, Queen of the Witches and Goddess of Magic. She could appear as a Raven, a beautiful Maiden or an ugly Hag. Her name is often used for the triad of war goddesses, who are often thought of as different aspects of the Morrighan. She married the Dagdha at Samhain. She is also known as the Goddess of Death.
Ogma, the God of Wisdom, Eloquence and Language, was known as the "Sun Faced" One. He was generaly portrayed as an old man dressed in a lion skin. From his tongue hung fine gold chains attached to the ears of his eager followers. He invented the Oghams and was also a great Warrior. Sometimes associated with the Greek Herakles, he is also the Irish God of music, spells and arts.
Scathach was known as 'She Who Strikes Fear'. The Irish Goddess of martial arts, she was the destroyer aspect of the Dark Goddess. She was a great sword warrior and instructor, and is associated with the Isle of Skye. She was known to have been the teacher of the great hero Cúchulainn. She was also the patroness of martial arts, prophecy, blacksmiths and magic.
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