The Druid priests of the Celts did not write down the stories of their gods and goddesses but instead transmitted them orally, so our knowledge of the early Celtic deities is limited. Romans of the first century BCE recorded the Celtic myths and then later, after the introduction of Christianity to the British Isles, the Irish monks of the 6th century and Welsh writers later wrote down their traditional stories.
The Celtic god Alator was associated with Mars, the Roman war god. His name is said to mean “he who nourishes the people”.
The Celtic god Albiorix was associated with Mars as Mars Albiorix. Albiorix is the “king of the world.”
Belenus is a Celtic god of healing worshiped from Italy to Britain. The worship of Belenus was linked with the healing aspect of Apollo. The etymology of Beltaine may be connected with Belenus. Belenus is also written: Bel, Belenos, Belinos, Belinu, Bellinus, and Belus.
Borvo (Bormanus, Bormo) was a Gallic god of healing springs whom the Romans associated with Apollo. He is depicted with helmet and shield.
Bres was a Celtic fertility god, the son of the Fomorian prince Elatha and the goddess Eriu. Bres married the goddess Brigid. Bres was a tyrannical ruler, which proved his undoing. In exchange for his life, Bres taught agriculture and made Ireland fertile.
British goddess connected with river and water cults, equated with Minerva, by the Romans and possibly linked with the goddess Brigit.
Brigit is the Celtic goddess of fire, healing, fertility, poetry, cattle, and patroness of smiths. Brigit is also known as Brighid or Brigantia and in Christianity is known as St. Brigit or Brigid. She is compared with the Roman goddesses Minerva and Vesta.
Ceridwen is a Celtic shape-shifting goddess of poetic inspiration. She keeps a cauldron of wisdom. She is the mother of Taliesin.
Cernunnos is a horned god associated with fertility, nature, fruit, grain, the underworld, and wealth, and especially associated with horned animals like the bull, stag, and a ram-headed serpent. Cernunnos is born at the winter solstice and dies at the summer solstice. Julius Caesar associated Cernunnos with the Roman Underworld god Dis Pater.
Source: “Cernunnos” A Dictionary of Celtic Mythology. James McKillop. Oxford University Press, 1998.
Epona is a Celtic horse goddess associated with fertility, a cornucopia, horses, asses, mules, and oxen who accompanied the soul on its final journey. Uniquely for the Celtic goddesses, the Romans adopted her and erected a temple to her in Rome.
Esus (Hesus) was a Gallic god named along with Taranis and Teutates. Esus is linked with Mercury and Mars and rituals with human sacrifice. He may have been a woodcutter.
Latobius was a Celtic god worshipped in Austria. Latobius was a god of mountains and sky equated with the Roman Mars and Jupiter.
Lenus was a Celtic healing god sometimes equated with the Celtic god Iovantucarus and the Roman god Mars who in this Celtic version was a healing god.
Lugh is a god of craftsmanship or a solar deity, also known as Lamfhada. As leader of the Tuatha De Danann, Lugh defeated the Fomorians at the Second Battle of Magh.
Maponus was a Celtic god of music and poetry in Britain and France, sometimes associated with Apollo.
Medb (or Meadhbh, Méadhbh, Maeve, Maev, Meave, and Maive), goddess of Connacht and Leinster. She had many husbands and figured in the Tain Bo Cuailgne (Cattle Raid of Cooley). She may have been a mother goddess or historical.
Morrigan is a Celtic goddess of war who hovered over the battlefield as a crow or raven. She has been equated with Medh. Badb, Macha, and Nemain may have been aspects of her or she was part of a trinity of war goddesses, with Badb and Macha.
The hero Cu Chulainn rejected her because he failed to recognize her. When he died, Morrigan sat on his shoulder as a crow. She is usually referred to as “the Morrigan”.
Source: “Mórrígan” A Dictionary of Celtic Mythology. James McKillop. Oxford University Press, 1998.
Nehalennia was a Celtic goddess of seafarers, fertility, and abundance.
Nemausicae was a Celtic mother goddess of fertility and healing.
Nerthus was a Germanic fertility goddess mentioned in Tacitus’ Germania.
Nuada (Nudd or Ludd) is the Celtic god of healing and much more. He had an invincible sword that would cut his enemies in half. He lost his hand in battle which meant that he was no longer eligible to rule as king until his brother made him a silver replacement. He was killed by the god of death Balor.
Saitada was a Celtic goddess from the Tyne Valley in England whose name may mean “goddess of grief.”
Sources and Further Reading
- Monaghan, Patricia. “The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore.” New York: Facts on File, 2004.
- Rutherford, Ward. “Celtic Mythology: The Nature and Influence of Celtic Myth from Druidism to Arthurian Legend.” San Francisco: Weiser Books, 2015.
- MacCana, Prosinsias. “Celtic Mythology.” Rushden, England: Newnes Books, 1983.
- McKillop, James. “Fionn mac Cumhail: Celtic Myth in English Literature.” Syracuse NY: Syracuse University Press, 1986.