A SMALL DICTIONARY OF
PAGAN GODS & GODDESSES

CELTIC


ANGUS OF THE BRUGH Also OENGUS OF THE BRUIG God of youth, son of the Dagda. In Ireland, Angus is the counterpart of Cupid. Angus' kisses turn into singing birds, and the music he plays irresistably draws all who hear.


ARIANRHOD "Silver Wheel," "High Fruitful Mother." One of the Three Virgins of Britain, her palace is Caer Arianrhod, the Celtic name for the Aurora Borealis.


BADB A goddess of war. One of a triad of war goddesses known collectively as the Morrigan. Bird shaped and crimson mouthed, Badb uses her magic to decide battles. Badb lusts after men and is often seen at fords washing the armor and weapons of men about to die in combat.


BRIGHID also BRIGIT. Goddess of healing and craftsmanship, especially metalwork. Also a patron of learning and poetry. In Wales she is Caridwen, who possesses the cauldron of knowledge and inspiration. The Celts so loved Brighid that they could not abandon her even when they became Christians, and so made Brighid a Christian saint.


CARIDWEN also HEN WEN; in Wales, BRIGHID "White Grain," "Old White One." Corn goddess. Mother of Taliesen, greatest and wisest of all the bards, and therefore a patron of poets. The "white goddess" of Robert Graves. Caridwen lives among the stars in the land of Caer Sidi. Caridwen is connected with wolves, and some claim her cult dates to the neolithic era.


CERNUNNOS Horned god of virility. Cernunnos wears the torc (neck-ring) and is ever in the company of a ram-headed serpent and a stag. Extremely popular among the Celts, the Druids encouraged the worship of Cernunnos, attempting to replace the plethora of local deities and spirits with a national religion. The Celts were so enamored of Cernunnos that his cult was a serious obstacle to the spread of Christianity.


DAGDA Earth and father god. Dagda possesses a bottomless cauldron of plenty and rules the seasons with the music of his harp. With his mighty club Dagda can slay nine men with a single blow, and with its small end he can bring them back to life. On the day of the New Year, Dagda mates with the raven goddess of the Morrigan who while making love straddles a river with one foot on each bank. A slightly comical figure.


DANU Mother goddess, an aspect of the Great Mother. Another of a triad of war goddesses known collectively as the Morrigan. Connected with the moon goddess Aine of Knockaine, who protects crops and cattle. Most importantly, the mother of the Tuatha de' Danann, the tribe of the gods.


DIAN CECHT A healer. At the second battle of Moytura, Dian Cecht murdered his own son whose skill in healing endangered his father's reputation. The Judgments of Dian Cecht, an ancient Irish legal tract, lays down the obligations to the ill and injured. An agressor must pay for curing anyone he has injured, and the severity of any wound, even the smallest, is measured in grains of corn.


DIS PATER Originally a god of death and the underworld, later the cheif god of the Gauls. The Gauls believed, as their Druids taught, that Dis Pater is the ancestor of all the Gauls.


DONN Irish counterpart to Dis Pater. Donn sends storms and wrecks ships, but he protects crops and cattle as well. Donn's descendents come to his island after death.


EPONA Horse goddess. Usually portrayed as riding a mare, sometimes with a foal. Roman legionaires, deeply impressed with Celtic horsemanship, took up the worship of Epona themselves and eventually imported her cult to Rome itself.


ESUS A god of the Gauls "whose shrines make men shudder," according to a Roman poet. Human sacrifices to Esus were hanged and run through with a sword. For unknown reasons, Esus is usually portrayed as a woodcutter.


GOVANNON The smith god. The weapons Govannon makes are unfailing in their aim and deadliness, the armor unfailing in its protection. Also a healer. Those who attend the feast of Govannon and drink of the god's sacred cup need no longer fear old age and infirmity.


LUG also LUGH, LLEU A sun god and a hero god, young, strong, radiant with hair of gold, master of all arts, skills and crafts. One day Lug arrived at the court of the Dagda and demanded to be admitted to the company of the gods. The gatekeeper asked him what he could do. For every skill or art Lug named, the gatekeeper replied that there was already one among the company who had mastered it. Lug at last pointed out that they had no one who had mastered them all, and so gained a place among the deities, eventually leading them to victory in the second battle of Moytura against the Formorian invaders. (The Formorians were a race of monsters who challenged the gods for supremacy in the first and second battles of Moytura.) The Romans identified Lug with Mercury. The most popular and widely worshipped of the Celtic gods, Lug's name in its various forms was taken by the cities of Lyons, Loudun, Laon, Leon, Lieden, Leignitz, Carlisle and Vienna.


MACHA "Crow." The third of the triad of war goddesses known as the Morrigan, Macha feeds on the heads of slain enemies. Macha often dominates her male lovers through cunning or simple brute strength.


MEDB "Drunk Woman." A goddess of war, not one of the Morrigan. Where the Morrigan use magic, Medb wields a weapon herself. The sight of Medb blinds enemies, and she runs faster than the fastest horse. A bawdy girl, Medb needs thirty men a day to satisfy her sexual appetite.


MORRIGAN, THE also MORRIGU MORRIGAN A war goddess, forerunner of the Arthurian Morgan La Fey. Like Odin, fickle and unfaithful, not to be trusted. A hag with a demonic laugh, the Morrigan appears as a grotesque apparition to men about to die in battle. Her name is also used for a triad of war goddesses, who are often thought of as different aspects of the Morrigan.


NEMAIN "Panic." A war goddess.


NUADHU also NUD, NODENS, LUD. "Nuadhu of the silver arm." God of healing and water; his name suggests "wealth-bringer" and "cloud-maker." At the first battle of Moytura, Nuadhu lost an arm, and Dian Cecht replaced it with a new one made out of silver. Because of this, Nuadhu was obliged to turn leadership of the Tuatha de' Dannan over to Lug. People came to be healed at Nuadhu's temple at Lydney, and small votive limbs made of silver have been found there.


OGMIOS also OGMA "Sun Face." A hero god like Hercules, a god of eloquence, language, genius. Generally portrayed as an old man dressed in a lion skin. From his tongue hang fine gold chains attached to the ears of his eager followers.


SUCELLUS Guardian of forests, patron of agriculture. His consort is Nantosvelta, whose name suggests brooks and streams. Sometimes considered synonomous with Cernunnos or Daghda.


TUATHA DE' DANANN The divine tribes and people descended from the goddess Danu. Skilled in druidry and magic, the Tuatha de' Danann possess four talismans of great power: the stone of Fal which shrieked under the true heir to the throne; the spear of Lug which made victory certain; the sword of Nuadhu which slays all enemies; and the ever full cauldron of Daghda from which no man ever goes away hungry.



Last modified: 02 January 2002
©1995 Red Deer@pagani