APPENDIX 2 List of Deities and Associated Figures
This list mentions only those deities that appear most frequently in the literature and is by no means exhaustive.
Abnoba, Andarta, Arduinna, Artio
A number of Celtic goddesses on the European continent appear to have been associated with animals that were hunted by the ancient Celts: deer, bear, boar. Other goddesses were specifically associated with certain forests. In each case, these goddesses played dual roles: caring for the animals of the forest and, if propitiated properly, granting huntsmen the right to take some of the animals for food and sacrifice. Sometimes, they were equated with the Roman Diana. Examples are Arduinna, a goddess associated with the area of the Ardennes forest; Andarta, a bear goddess of southern Gaul; Abnoba, a goddess of the modern Black Forest; and Artio, a Swiss bear goddess.
Ailill mac Mágach
In the Ulster Cycle, this is the name of the husband of Medbh of Connacht. His function in the stories is to be the consort of the sovereignty figure and, as a character, he often appears to be a cypher. His mythological antecedents are uncertain.
Although she rarely appears in myths, Áine is an important figure in Munster (SW Ireland) placelore and folklore. She is still associated with Knockainey Hill in County Limerick where she was probably a tutelary goddess.
Poet brother of Donn, leader of the mythical Milesians who invade Ireland in the last of the invasions described in Lebor Gabála Érenn. When the Milesians failed to invade successfully, Amergen negotiated with the goddesses of the land to ensure that a second landing would be successful. His triumphant, mystical poem, recited as the successful landing is made, is fuill of creative imagery leading to suggestions that Amergen and Donn may have once been Divine Twins who played roles in a pre-Christian Celtic creation story.
Medieval Irish literature identifies Anu as a goddess who was, depending on the source, the "mother of the Irish gods" or a patron goddess of Munster. Ireland as a whole and certain hills in county Kerry have been identified as her land. She has been equated with the Morrígan and, despite linguistic obstacles, with Áine because of the Munster association. Confusion between this figure and one named Danu or Danann existed in medieval times.
Female figure in the Mabinogi. Assumed to be a virgin, she is in fact impregnated by her brother Gwydion, and gives birth to twins, Dylan and Lleu Llaw Gyffes. Based on the meaning of her name (silver wheel or disk) and folk traditions, Arianrhod is associated with the moon or stars.
Powerful sorcerer/leader of the Fomoire and maternal grandfather of the Túatha Dé Danann hero, Lugh mac Eithlenn, who kills him in a battle for the harvest. Balor has a magical eye whose glance can kill but Lugh blinds it with a stone from a slingshot. Warned by prophecy that he would die at the hands of his grandson, Balor tries to prevent Lugh's conception by imprisoning his mother and, in some versions, attempts to kill Lugh at birth.
(Irish, bean sídhe; Scottish, bean sith; Manx, ben shee) Apparition said to herald the imminent death of a member of families who once ruled petty kingdoms; only rarely associated with Anglo-Norman families. The figure usually takes the form of a woman weeping and keening, although the details of her appearance vary according to region. Banshees are often associated with tutelary goddesses.
With ravens or other crows as their symbols, battle furies appeared in the earliest Celtic iconography. They knew who would die in battle and frequently appeared beforehand to begin the mourning. Several, of which the Morrígan is best known, feature in Irish and Welsh mythology. By elflaming warriors and energizing them to defeat their foes, they represented the protective aspect of the sovereignty goddess. Thus, the Morrígan tells Cú Chulainn that she has charge of his death. She even attempts to dissuade him from his last battle by damaging his chariot. But it was believed that blood was needed to maintain the balance of the world. Those going into battle might offer other lives beforehand to ensure their own safe return or, after the battle, to thank a goddess for victory and life.
Identifying which goddesses really were associated with battle is not always easy. Twelfth-century Irish mythology depicts several figures such as Badbh Cathach and Nemhain, whose function seems to have been to enflame some warriors and terrify others. Cathubodua, the Gaulish goddess, played a similar role. Some titular goddesses, such as Brigantia of the Brigantes, were depicted bearing arms, suitable to their role of tribal protector. Boudicca, the British leader, invoked Andrasta and later sacrificed to her.
Belenos, Grannos and Vindonnos.
Representations of Celtic gods on the European continent frequently include symbols that may represent the sun. However, the evidence does not make it possible to discern which shrines, symbols, and objects were purely solar. The distinctions became clearer in the later periods when many Celtic solar gods on the Continent and in British areas became conflated with Apollo. Most of these were associated with healing shrines. Belenos, Grannos, and Vindonnos were the titles given to popular solar gods on the Continent and in British areas.
Beli Mawr fab Mynogan
Mythical ancestor of several Welsh dynasties, this figure appears in Nennius' Historia Brittonum as an enemy of Caesar named Bellinus filius Minocanni.
Name for Bran Fendigeid, ill-fated British hero of the second branch of the Mabinogi who invades Ireland in an attempt to rescue his sister Branwen from her abusive husband. Catastrophic battle follows in which almost all inhabitants of both Ireland and Britain are said to have been killed.
Maiden created out of flowers to be the bride of Lleu Llaw Gyffes. She abandons him for a lover and plots his death for which she is punished by being turned into an owl. She is probably a cognate for an Irish figure, Bláthnat, who betrays her husband, Cú Roi, with the Ulster hero, Cú Chulainn and is killed by her husband's servant.
Irish goddess associated with cows (sources of nourishment and fertility in many respects) and the sources of knowledge and inspiration. She is synonymous with the River Boyne and gave part of her body for knowledge. Her husbands were Nechtán and Elcmar. Her son Óengus mac ind Óg was fathered by the Dagda.
(1) Son of the Dagda and king of a sídh mound who becomes prominent in folklore. (2) One of the battle furies.
Sister of Bran Fendigeid (see Bendigeidfran) and Manawydan. Her fate is the subject of the second branch of the Mabinogi.
This Irish goddess, possibly derived from the British Brigantia and certainly cognate with her, is often depicted as a pan-Celtic figure, although the evidence is not conclusive. In some texts she is the wife of Bres and the mother of Rúadán who was slain by Goibniu, and in others she is the daughter of the Dagda and an unnamed mother. Sanas Cormaic says that she had two sisters, also named Bríg, and together they pratonized the crafts of leeching, smithwork, and poetry. Almost everything beyond this comes from the figure of St. Brigit, a legendary medieval Irish saint whose image is almost certainly made up of attributes and tales collected from a number of different goddess and saint figures.
Equated with Minerva, Brigantia was the patron goddess of a group of tribes, the Briganti, who occupied what is now the north of England. Her statues show her with symbols of protection and prosperity. Her name comes from the same root as the Welsh word for king. Because the Briganti later colonized a part of eastern Ireland, it has been suggested that Brigantia ultimately lies behind the figure of the Irish goddess, Bríg or Bríd, and the later saint, Brigit.
A catch-all term for a figure in Irish literature and folklore. Cailleach can mean either old woman or nun, and this leads to confusion. The term also refers to the last sheaf of grain which was often ceremonially cut. The figure is most often associated with Erainn kin-groups in Munster and related kin-groups in Ulster; she probably represents a remnant of a tutelary goddess. The Scottish equivalent, the Cailleach Bheurr shows evidence of conflation with Norse figures.
One of the most popular Celtic gods was the transfunctional figure equated with Celtic Mercury. He may have originally been the figure known in Gaul as Lugos. Associated with ravens and the founding of towns, he was known as the master of all crafts and often associated with the prosperity goddess, Rosmerta.
Figures with the symbols associated with the Roman sky-god, Jupiter have been found in some continental Celtic areas. They often carry the Celtic wheel symbol, whose meaning is debated, and ride horses as they bear down on a large figure (a giant?). Other Indo-European groups thought of their sky-gods as kings of the other deities and as having participated in the creation of the world. Therefore, scholars have speculatively associated the Celtic sky-god with similar functions. Some of these figures are associated with the name Taranis or Thunderer. In literary sources, Taranis is associated with Esus and Teutates.
Female figure in medieval Welsh literature; sorceress whose brews can bestow poetic gifts. Known primarily from a late tale in which Gwion Bach drinks the brew intended for Ceridwen's son and who, after a series of transformations, is reborn as the poet Taliesin.
Name associated with a Gaulish horned deity. Based on just onedamaged inscription, scholars and popular writers have taken to using the name to refer to all horned- and stag-antlered deities.
Son of Dian Cecht, lover of Eithne daughter of Balor, and father of Lugh Lámfada. His other name is Scal Bálb.
Foster-brother of Cú Chullainn and secondary to him in all respects, although traces suggest he may once have been more prominent in the tales. As the tales have come to us, Conall Cernach serves as a lookout and enforcer. He avenges the death of Cú Chulainn. Descriptions of him suggest that he may once have been closely associated with goats.
King of Ulster in most of the Ulster Cycle tales that have survived. He is uncle and foster-father to Cú Chulainn and the perpetual enemy of Medbh and Ailill of Connacht.
Celtic goddess venerated in Britain during the Roman era. Associated with a site that had its own well for offerings.
Son of the god Lugh, husband of Emer and (possibly earlier) Eithne Ingubai, principal hero of the Ulster cycle, originally named Setanta. The majority of the Ulster Cycle tales concern his exploits.
A leading figure of the Túatha Dé Danann and a prime mover in their battles with the Fomoire. The Dagda (literally, "good god) has scores of alternate names, suggesting that he was a significant deity in the pre-Christian religion of Ireland. His magical objects-a never-empty cauldron and a hammer able to both take and give life-have invited comparisons with Hammer god. He also owned a magical harp and could be a figure of fun as well as a powerful warrior.
Physician of the Tuatha Dé Danann, but his healing skills were supassed by those of his son, Miach. Out of jealousy, Dian Cécht slew his son. When Miach was buried, a healing herb sprang from every joint and sinew in his body. His sister, Airmid, sorted the herbs on her cloak, but Dian Cécht sent a wind to scatter them and the knowledge was lost. In medieval healing charms, the name of Dian Cécht was sometimes invoked alongside those of the Christian Trinity.
Name of Roman god used by Julius Caesar to identify the ancestor of the Gauls. Probably equivalent to the Irish Donn, said to be the ancestor of the Irish and lord of Teach Duinn, the island where the Irish go after death.
There is an old tradition in Indo-European cultures of twin brothers who acted together and had connections with the sun, horses and swans. Frequently their mother was a horse goddess. In Celtic mythological traditions, we find traces of the twins in, for example, the brothers Bran and Manawydan in the Welsh Mabinogi. In other tales, Pryderi seems to occupy Bran's place. Pryderi was born of a horse goddess, Rhiannon, at the same time as a special foal. He was closely associated with Manawydan, and it may be that their relationship was changed over time from brother to friend. In Irish myth, Amergen and Donn may also qualify as twins, as well as the children of Macha, another horse goddess. Sometimes, the divine twins were reduced to one figure; other times they were increased. Both Óengus mac ind Óg and the children of Lir were probably originally divine twins.
The mother of several figures in Welsh myth.
Brother of the poet Amergen, Donn led the Milesians invading Ireland from Spain in the Irish origin tale, Lebor Gabála Érenn. He refused to negotiate with the goddess Ériu and died after she cursed him. In Irish folk tradition, the dead go to his land, Teach Duinn, sometimes associated with an island off the southwest coast of Ireland.
Dylan Eil Ton
In the Mabinogi, the son of Arianrhod by Gwydion and twin brother to Lleu Llw Gyffes. At birth, he vanishes into the sea but he is later killed by his uncle Gofannon.
This name is applied to a number of figures in medieval and early modern Irish mythology and hagiography. Perhaps the best known is tthe Fomoire woman, daughter of Balor, who bears Lugh to Cian, son of Dian Cecht of the Túatha Dé Danann. After the death of Balor, she goes to Tara and weds Tadgh mac Nuadat. They have two children, one of whom becomes the mother of Fionn mac Cumhaill. In other tales, Eithne appears as a sovereignty figure, particularly for a group called the Déssi, or a virtuous sidhe woman who becomes a saint.
Wife of Cú Chulainn in most surviving stories of the Ulster cycle. In medieval eyes, Emer possessed the qualities most desirable in a woman. She was skilled and educated but was generally content to play a retiring, supportive role. Her few attempts to offer advice to her husband were angrily rejected.
Goddess of Ireland with whom Amergen negotiates to gain safe landing for the invading Milesians. When he swears that her name will always be honored, she promises that the Milesians may land. He makes similar agreements with her sisters, Banba and Fodla. The names of all three were long used to refer to the island of Ireland.
Epona was a horse goddess venerated in many areas on the Continent. Horses were symbols of kingship in many Indo-European cultures, including the ancient Celtic groups. The horse was used as a symbol and mythic image for goddesses closely associated with sovereignty and for gods associated with battle and protection. The sovereignty of the land was personified as a goddess who mated with the rightful kings, transforming them into conduits of the power necessary for prosperity. These horse goddesses granted the power to rule wisely and generated a mystical bond between ruler and the well-being of those ruled. Evidence suggests that at the time of initiation into the kingship, Irish leaders symbolically mated with a mare representing the horse goddess. Such ceremonies were allegedly conducted in Ireland well into the Christian period. Although Macha and Etáin Echtraide in Irish tales, and Rhiannon in Welsh, are presented as human women, they may represent traces of two other horse goddesses.
This name appears on only one statue, but it is linked in literary sources with Taranis and Teutates as the names of "the three deities of the Gauls," a statement that has stimulated pages of speculation by modern scholars without satisfactory conclusion. Lucan claimed that humans were hung in offering to Esus.
Fergus mac Roich
A main character of the Ulster cycle and one of the Ulaid by birth, Fergus mac Roich lived among the Connachta during the Táin Bó Cuailgne because of an earlier falling out with Conchobhar over a matter of honor. Although he becomes the lover of Medbh, Fergus is married to Flidais.
Fionn mac Cumhaill
The principal hero of the Fenian cycle, he is poet, warrior, hunter, traveler between worlds, and leader of a band of fénnidi, warriors who live in the woods apart from society. Even in the earliest surviving tales, Fionn is an extraordinary mix of traditions. His antecedents are virtually impossible to trace, but the traditions associated with him may incorporate survivals from earlier hunting cults and deities associated with prey animals such as the stag and boar.
The wife of Fergus mac Roich, Flidais may have been a forest goddess in pre-Christian times, if poetic references to deer as "the cattle of Flidais" are an accurate indication.
Residents of Ireland who oppose every group (except that of Cesair) that attempts to settle there. They are decisively defeated by the Túatha Dé Danann. In the folk tradition, the Fomoire are the spirits of untamed nature.
In the Mabinogi, brother of Gwydion and Arianrhod, and nephew of Math fab Mathonwy.
Powerful magician in the Mabinogi who repeatedly instigates trouble. He is probably the father of Lleu Llaw Gyffes by his sister, Arianrhod.
One of the most popular Gaulish figures was the hammer-god. He appears on over 200 stone and bronze figures. Ten of the figures have the name "Sucellus," which may mean "Striker," inscribed on them. If all the inscriptions appeared in a restricted geographic area, the name might be considered local. Since the inscriptions appear over a widely scattered area from Gaul to Switzerland to Germany, the name may have had wider use. The iconography varies somewhat, reflecting the differences in local concerns. For example, in the region of Burgundy and the lower Rhone Valley, the hammer-god is shown with a wine-grower's tools. However, all the figures bear some sort of hammer-like tool or weapon and a pot or goblet. The significance of the hammer is unclear. The pot or goblet is almost definitely linked to the never-empty vats and cauldrons of Irish myth. The hammer-god is sometimes linked with the Dagda of Irish myth. The Dagda bears a club whose two ends have different functions, he owns an inexhaustible vat, and wears a short tunic similar to that shown on images of the hammer-god in Gaul. Also, just as Sucellus sometimes is associated with a river goddess (Nantosuelta), the Dagda is sometimes associated with the river goddess, Bóand, and mates with another goddess he meets when she is astride a river.
By this term, I refer to deities depicted with the horns and other attributes of a goat or ram. Although many scholars lump these figures together with stag-antlered deities, my perspective is that they have distinct concerns. Goat- and ram-horned deities appear to have been domestic protectors. The Irish hero, Conall Cernach, may have originally been a goat-horned deity.
Anglicized version of a number of Irish names for a treasure-guarding craftsman of Irish folklore.
Lleu Llaw Gyffes
In the Mabinogi, son of Arianrhod, probably by her brother Gwydion, and husband of Blodeuwedd.
In Irish myth and folklore, Lugh is the superhero and master of every skill. He is also a wreaker of vengeance: he exacts the ultimate compensation from those who killed his father and later he murders his wife's lover. The Welsh figure Lleu is also betrayed by his mate, but eventually Lleu takes vengeance, too. This figure, as the one who wrests the harvest from the forces of chaos, is the focus of Lughnasa celebrations.
Manannán mac Lir
Irish mythological figure associated with the sea and crossing borders between worlds. It is not clear whether he is one of the Túatha Dé Danann, but he allots kingship over the sídhe mounds. He is primarily associated with Otherworld islands and the Isle of Man. Though "mac Lir" has often been taken to mean "son of Lir" with Lir as the name of a sea god, it may simply be a soubriquet "son of the sea" referring to Manannán's association with the sea.
Manawydan fab Llyr
A male figure who appears in several branches of the Mabinogi.
Math fab Mathonwy
In the Mabinogi, a king and uncle to Gwydion, Arianrhod, and Gilfaethwy.
Son of the healing god, Dian Cécht.
The Morrígan is one of the most misunderstood figures in Irish mythology. Although popularly depicted by modern writers as a "dark goddess" associated exclusively with war and death, this misconception is based on the figure's activities in a few tales of battle rather than an overview of all the tales with which she was associated. Seeing the Morrígan as a strcitly "dark" figure also imposes a Jungian view on Celtic material instead of seeing the figures from a Celtic perspective. The Morrígan was, in fact, a protector figure associated with all aspects of tribal prosperity, including fertility, as well as war. For example, her mating at Samhain with the Dagda, often interpreted as an act of arming warriors for war, probably represents fertilizing the land for the harvest that will be reaped nine months later at Lughnasa. In some texts she is equated with the fertility figure, Anu.
Motherly fertility and protector figures appear in duos and triples in many places on the Continent. They are accompanied by symbols of prosperity and nourishment. The Mothers are invariably shown as three or two women of similar age.
In the Ulster cycle, queen of Connacht, wife of Ailill, perennial enemy of Conchobhar, and lover of many. Most scholars think that behind the medieval figure of Medbh was a tutelary goddess.
In Gaulish examples, the hammer-god is often accompanied by a fertility goddess. In one case, she is named as Nantosuelta, a fertility goddess who also appears in her own right at Gaulish sites. She appears with a pole with a house atop it, symbols of fertility - patera, cornucopia, fruit - and a raven This iconography, while no means certain, suggests the multiple concerns of an all-round protector and provider of prosperity, while her name, which may mean Winding River, associates her with the land and possibly healing.
In Irish mythology and placelore, a husband of Bóand and the lord of the Well of Segais, the source of Otherworldly knowledge.
Celtic god in Britain, possibly cognate with the Welsh literary figure of Llud Llawereint and the Irish mythological figure Nuadu Argetlám.
King of the Túatha Dé Danann at the time of their battles with the Fomoire. He lost an arm in battle. It was eventually replaced by a silver prosthesis.
Óengus mac ind Óc
In Irish myth and folklore, the son of an affair between the Dagda and Bóand. Often, he becomes the protector of star-crossed lovers, and he is himself depicted as having to wait long for the woman of his heart.
In the Mabinogi, son of Pwyll and Rhiannon.
Prince of Dyfed who spends a year in the Otherworld on behalf of Arawn, a king of the Otherworld. After serving honorably, Pwyll returns and wins the hand of Rhiannon with whom he fathers Pryderi.
Mabinogi figure who becomes the queen first of Pwyll, to whom she bears Pryderi, and later of Manawydan. Her association with horses suggests that her figure may once have been a British equivalent of Epona.
This Celtic goddess is associated with images found primarily in northeastern Gaul. Her images are found singly and in combination with Celtic Mercury. She is depicted with symbols of prosperity.
Gaulish goddess from whom the river Seine was named.
Celtic goddess to whom inscriptions are found in various places on the European continent, usually in connection with healing springs.
A Celtic god associated with hunting. Early Celtic rock carvings in Camonica, Italy, show a half-human, half-stag being hunted. Scholars have interpreted these scenes as a ritual hunt. Images of gods with antlers have been unearthed throughout Celtic areas on the Continent and in Britain. The name Cernunnos or Horned One has been applied to all stag-antlered deities, perhaps incorrectly, since the single inscription was found on an image with the horns of a ram or goat, not the antlers of a stag. The stag-antlered god ruled over the areas of untamed nature, ensuring the welfare of the forest and its inhabitants. He also had connections with the sun and was seen as capable of wielding the fertile power that could ensure prosperity in any enterprise.
Many Celtic goddesses were associated with rivers or springs, sun, and healing. This combination fits into the ancient Celtic belief that the healing power of the sun could be captured in water and transmitted via bathing or drinking. While they were often linked with a form of Apollo, frequently these goddesses appeared alone. This group includes Sulis in Britain and Sirona in Gaul.
See Celtic sky-god.
This Gaulish god may have been conflated with Mars in some places, but his exact nature is unknown. Literary sources claim that human sacrifices were drowned in offering to him, a method which sometimes is thought of as used for sacrifices to fertility, not war. However, in Celtic theology, tribal protectors were responsible for both defense and prosperity.
In a number of Celtic images on the European continent, there is a god with three heads. While triplism is not an uncommon characteristic in Celtic iconography, three heads seems to be a particular characteristic of one god. Unfortunately, we know nothing more about him, not even his name.
Túatha Dé Danann
Traditionally, this phrase has been translated as "People of the Goddess Danu," but recently scholars such as John Carey have pointed out that this is linguistically inaccurate and suggest that "Tribe of the Gifted Gods" might be more accurate. In Irish myth, the Túatha Dé Danann are depicted as humans skilled at magic and wielding extraordinary powers, a sort of race of superhumans. They battle with the forces of nature, the Fomoire, for control of the land. However, they are defeated by the invading humans, Milesians, and obliged to remain mostly in the mounds and Otherworld.
Julius Caesar stated that the Gauls claimed that Dis Pater was their ultimate ancestor. Dis Pater was the Roman god of the afterlife. Caesar usually described Celtic deities by saying they were equivalent to one Roman deity or another, so we should not take his statement too literally. However, we know from Irish myths that Donn was considered both an ancestor of the Irish and the lord of the island where the Irish were believed to go when they died. So this image of a Celtic deity who was both ancestor and Underworld lord may be accurate.