Druidic Gods & Goddesses

Source 2: http://www.druidsgrove.com

The Celtic people believed in a variety of gods and goddesses, although not every Celtic nation believed in the same group. Ireland had different gods than Wales, who had further different gods than Gaul. Another point to consider is not only were gods known by different names, but many of the names were deemed too holy to pronounce aloud. (thus the common oath: "I swear by the god my tribe swears by".)

It is important to remember that in the pre-Christian times, the people believed in complex and imperfect gods who, like human beings, had personalities, interests, and feelings. A religious professional would be required to know these things in order to avoid angering them, thereby risking the welfare of the tribe. Because the Gods are similar to humans in disposition and temperament, they are so much more accessible and comprehensible to humans. The idea that the gods might be makers of morality and judges of humanity is a foreign idea to most ancient European peoples.

The Tuatha de Danann (Tribe of the Goddess Danu) was the name of the Irish pantheon, for the Gods were descended from Her. Ironically, Danu herself never makes a personal appearance in the myths, but perhaps she is already everywhere, like the land. Certainly, some European rivers are named after her like the Danube and Dneiper, and the Don river in Toronto, Canada. Stories of the Gods are found primarily in the story of the two Battles of Mag Tuireadh (or Moytura), where they won the sovereignty of Ireland from the race of Fomorians. With the introduction of Christianity, the old Gods lost status and power and became the Sidhe, or faeries, and many Druidic ideas evolved into the Faerie Faith. (see Faerie Faith).

This is a brief list, offering only a brief description of the Gods. In the bibliography for this page there are many titles that can provide better descriptions of more deities.

  • Lugh Lamh-fada (Long Handed), Son of the Sun, father of Cu/Chullain. He is known by many names, such as Lleu in Wales, and Lugos in Gaul, and appears to be one of the few pan-Celtic deities. He bears the epithet "Samildanach", or "Master of Crafts" and on account of this Dagda stands down and allows him to command the armies of the Gods at the battle of Moytura. He is more commonly known as "Lamhfada", or "God with the Large Hand", and as such has numerous counterparts in other Indo-European cultures, including the Hindu culture. 

  • Dagda the Good (good not because of his moral disposition but because of the diversity of his skills) He is King of the Tuatha de Dannans, most of the time, and is father to many of the Gods. He possesses a magical club that can heal the dead or slay the living, and also possesses a cauldron that can feed unlimited numbers of people. 

  • Nuada Argat-lamh (Silver Hand) twice king of the Dannans. Nuada lost his hand in the Battle of Moytura, and had it replaced with a mechanical hand by Dian Cecht. He has a counterpart in the Norse God Tyr, who is also missing a hand, though for a different reason. 

  • Morrigu, Babd, and Nemhain (a triple goddess of War, and also connected to sovereignty) A powerful Goddess. Morrigan is responsible for choosing who will die in battle. To the Iron-Age Celts, this means she chooses who will pass into the Otherworld. One of her more grisly omens is the Washer at the Ford, where she appears as a maiden wringing blood from the clothes of the hero who is destined to die that day. Her sisters are named Babd, "Frenzy", and Nemain, "Eater of the dead". 

  • Brigid (a triple Goddess of Fire, Poetry, and the Forge). She is christianized as Saint Bridget. Perpetual fires were kept blazing for Her and never allowed to go out. Brigit's Crosses (a cross with three or four arms, woven from reeds) were hung over the hearth of the home, and Her blessing invoked in the preparation of forged items, food, and other commodities requiring fire. She is also a fertility deity, as she assists in childbirth of animals and of people; her Christian symbolism casts her as the midwife of Christ. The festival of Imbolc is sacred t o her, and the folk would often leave bits of cloth outside their back door for her to touch and bless as she traveled abroad through the night. 

  • Diancecht, god of healing. His name translates roughly as Dia- "God", and Cecht- "of the plough". He crafted a magical well which would resurrect to life anyone thrown into it, although the Fomorians filled it with stones. His children were great healers in their own right; Miach, his son was a better surgeon (a slight for which Diancecht killed him) and his daughter Airmud was a master herbalist. 

  • Manannan mac Lir, God of the sea and master of magic. His name survives in the Isle of Man. Manannan is also a pan-Celtic deity, at least among the British Isles. In His realm, the Sea, are found the many magical islands that populate the Celtic Otherworld. The Sea is the Sky to him. In this way his concern is not merely the sea but also of the passages to the Otherworld, of which he is the guardian. His many titles include "Lord of Mists", "Lord of the Land of Women", "Lord of the Land Beneath the Waves". In the Christian period, worship of Manannan was probably transferred to Saint Micheal.

Welsh mythology tends to focus on the actions of heroes, and their interaction with gods. The primary source is the Mabinogion, a compendium of legends from Wales' mythic time. Some scholars think the Mabinogion more accurately describes medieval Wales rather than Iron-Age Wales; nevertheless it is a valuable source for Welsh-Celtic mysticism. Your author would like to admit that since he specializes in Irish and Scottish folklore his grasp of Welsh deities is weak.

  • Arawn, lord of the Annwyn (the Otherworld). 

  • Math ap Mathonwy, the quintessential wizard. Math requires a virgin to rest his feet upon, apparently to prevent him from contacting the Earth and thereby losing his power. 

  • Pwyll, lord of the kingdom of Davyd, and husband of Rhiannon. 

  • Arianrhod: She is the Goddess of Caer Arianrhod, which is sometimes identified with the constellation Coronea Borealis ("Northern Crown"), which is where the souls of slain heroes go. Her name means "Silver Wheel", which may also refer to the constellation, or to the Wheel of the Year that is celebrated at each of the Fire Festivals. 

  • Rhiannon, (wife of Pwyll) Goddess associated with horses and the Underworld. She is the great Goddess with whom Pwyll is joined as a sacred king. 

  • Cerridwen, mother of the poet Taliesin (and perhaps therefore a patroness of poets). She possesses a cauldron in which a magical wisdom-granting brew can be concocted. 

  • Lyr, god of the sea 

  • Manawyddan, the Welsh counterpart to the Irish Manannan.

Gaulish deities are the focus of Caesar's records. He drew analogies between six of his own Roman gods and those he "discovered" in Gaul. The archeological record in Gaul reveals 374 god-names, many of which were gods of individual tribes or locales, or the many names used to describe the same deity.

  • Lugh (Roman= Mercury)

  • Belinus (Roman= Apollo)

  • Taranis (Roman= Mars) a thunder god

  • Teutatis (Roman= Jupiter)

  • Brigid (Roman= Minerva)

  • Cernunnos (Roman= Dispater) the Animal Lord or Green Man, and probably the God depicted on a panel of the Gnudstrup Cauldron. (see Symbols)

  • Esus, Hu'Hesu, the perpetually Dying God

  • Epona, the Horse Goddess, with attributes of fertility for mares and women.

Also of note is the deity Herne the Hunter, a Saxon god popularly revered in the Mediaeval times and likely evolved from the worship of Cernunnos. Like Cernunnos, Herne is a male hunter-god, making his home in deep forests, having stag antlers on his head, and also associated with animals and with fertility. His image is likely the origin of the Horned God (see Symbols and Wicca ) worshipped by modern Wiccans. Cernunnos (and Herne) have a Hindu counterpart in Shiva, who is depicted surrounded by animals and named Pasupati, "Lord of Animals", in a rare excavation discovered in Mohenjodaro, India.

Not all Druids worship the gods by name. There is some (albeit historically unreliable) evidence that the Druids of old believed in a kind of universal Life Force, flowing from a central place (such as the Irish Well of Wisdom or the Welsh Spiral of Annwyn), to and from all living things. Such a force would presumably be superior to even the gods. Perhaps the best modern description is Obi-Wan's description of "The Force", from the famous Star Wars films by George Lucas. If this force has a name in Celtic literature, that name is Truth. A number of heroes use a declaration of Truth to work some magical change in the world, and some magical artifacts respond to the Truth around them. One classic example is Cormac's Cup, which would shatter into three pieces of three lying words are told near it, and mend itself if three true words were told.

Share