The Gods and Goddesses of the Celts Notes by Dr. Honora M. Finkelstein The gods and goddesses of the Celts had common types among the different tribes, if not common names: The goddesses were most often mothers and warriors; commonly they were sexual (like Aphrodite or Venus) and brought prosperity. (Goddesses and gods often mated ritually at Samhain, the beginning of the Celtic year.) The gods were most often warrior-chieftains. One notable aspect of the gods of the Celts is they often appeared as triads: o Three-headed or three-faced gods (the three-headed or three-faced Tricephalus appears in monuments 32 times in Gaul) o Goddesses in groups of three (Éire, Banba, and Fódla and the “triple Brighid” of Ireland) o Several of the gods were zoomorphic, meaning they shape-shifted into animals (e.g., the goddess Rhiannon turned into a white horse, while others were associated with various birds; the god Cernunnos is represented with the horns of a ram or a deer). o Gods of the waters were often paired with goddesses of rivers. Mother Goddesses Among the goddesses, Ana or Anu (also Dana or Danu), goddess of prosperity and fertility, seems to have been the highest of the goddesses, for she is the “mother or nurturer of the gods.” The “triple Brighid” was patroness of the following: o child-birth (surviving as St. Brigid, she was the mid-wife of the Virgin Mary in common folklore); o prosperity o seasonal goddess of the Feast of Imbolc (1st of February), the pagan festival of purification. There was also a trio of warrior goddesses: o Morrígan (“Queen of Phantoms”) o Badb (“Crow”) o Macha, a name often associated in myths with human women who take on the character of the goddess. She was sometimes associated with the Feast of Lugnasad (August 1st) (Sometimes Nemain (“Panic”) replaces Macha; Nemain and Badb are also the names of wives of the ancient war-god Nét). o Chieftain-Gods The Dagda, also known as Eochaid Ollathair, “Father of All,” expressed the notion of chieftain in a patriarchal society, and was good at everything: magician, fighter, artisan, and builder. His figure was deliberately extreme: ugly and pot-bellied, with a short tunic (like a low-class person), hairy, horsehide boots, and an enormous club. His skill both in battle and in orgiastic endeavors is the basis of much mythology. Lugh is also a chieftain-god, but is young, beautiful, and pure. He wields a spear or a slingshot, so can wound or kill from a distance. He was said to be “many-skilled”: carpenter, smith, harper, poet, historian, champion, hero, and sorcerer. Manannán mac Lir takes his name from the Isle of Man (Inis Manann). He is a sea-god, who traveled over the sea in his chariot. Every successive tribe seems to have had a god who was similar to Manannán. Made with Xara Website by Susan Smily