MAEVE See Medb

Mag Mell In Irish tales, the land of the dead part of the Otherworld. It was ruled by the Fomorian king Tethra and also Manannan mac Lir. It was a popular destination for adventurous heroes. See also Tir. Mag TuIRED Site of two battles between the Tuatha De Danann and their enemies first the fir bolg and then the Fomorians. The Tuatha De Danann were ultimately victorious in both battles. See also Cath Maige Wired. Maine The name of seven sons of Medb and Ailill mac Mata. The royal couple...

Dire

And child in an entire province for three years. Then, for good measure, they threw in a flock of sheep, a herd of goats, and a passel of pigs. The Fomorians challenged and taunted Dagda to eat the porridge or die. Dagda leaned over the great crater in the ground and sniffed at the mixture of ingredients. He put one giant finger into the mess and tasted it. To the amazement of the Fomorians, Dagda ate the entire huge crater of porridge. Feeling tired after such a big meal, Dagda lay down under...

Cattle Raids

Sought peace by offering the Fir Bolg half of Ireland, but they refused this offer, and so the battle resumed. The druids of the Tuatha De Danann used their magic to kill Eochaid mac Eirc, the Fir Bolg leader. Defeated, the Fir Bolg agreed to peace, but the gods offered them only the province of Connacht. Many of their members fled to distant islands. As a leader of the Tuatha De Danann, Bres was found wanting. He forced the gods to work for him and lacked such royal qualities as generosity and...

MACHA The wife of Nemed

He boasted that she could outrun a horse even in the final hours of her pregnancy. She won the race and gave birth to twins at the finish line. Thereafter, the place was known as Emain Macha, which means twins of Macha. Macha was so furious at the men of Ulster who laughed at her struggle that she cursed the next nine generations of Ulstermen to suffer the pains of childbirth for nine days. This curse kept the warriors of Ulster from fighting against Medb's...

Lugaid mac Con Ro Son ofC Ro who

Killed C chulainn and was in turn killed by Conall. He boasted of his deeds at the feast hosted by Mac Da Th . Lugh (Luc, LUGUS, LLEU) A Celtic god known as the Shining One who was widely worshipped by all the Celtic tribes. Archaeologists count more monuments dedicated to Lugh than to any other Celtic god. Roman Emperor Julius Caesar compared Lugh to the Roman god Mercury. Of all the gods, they the Gauls worship Mercury most of all, he wrote. They say he is the inventor of all the arts. Gaul...

Roman Interpretation Interpretatio

ROMANO) The Celts worshiped hundreds of different gods who were mostly linked to a specific place rather than to a function, such as healing. The Romans, on the other hand, had an organized pantheon of gods. Each god had a place in the hierarchy and a specific function. When the Romans invaded the Celtic lands, they tried to make sense of the Celtic gods by renaming them. Any god or goddess of healing, for example, they renamed Minerva, after the Roman divinity. Any powerful god became Mars....

Cycle Of Kings

Celtic Roi

A sign in modern Wales written in English and Cymraeg, the Welsh language that dates back to Celtic times. (Photo by Aled James Used under a Creative Commons license) C Ro met C chulainn yet again in T in B C aiinge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley), in which Medb averted a duel between the two warriors. During their last meeting, C chulainn killed C Ro with the help of Bl ith ne, C Ro 's unfaithful wife. CWN ANNWFN In Welsh mythology, the hounds of hell. Named for Annwfn, the Welsh Otherworld, the...

Sources Of Celtic Mythology

The characters and stories in this book come mostly from Ireland, Scotland, Britain, and Wales. Other significant areas include the tiny Isle of Man, Brittany (the westernmost peninsula of France), and Gaul. The Celtic people were spread out over a wide geographic area. They were made up of many different social groups and classes. Despite this diversity, the Celtic people did share certain religious beliefs and traditions. And like the Egyptians, Greeks, and other groups of people, they...

Note On Spelling And Pronunciation

Unfortunately, the Irish, Welsh, British, Gaulish, and Manx names for people and places are sometimes quite difficult to pronounce. One reason for this is that the myths come from different regions and countries where the people spoke different Celtic dialects. Irish and Welsh, for example, are very different from one another. They even have different alphabets. Furthermore, accents and pronunciation vary from region to region (much as they do in the United States). So the same word might sound...

Rooster See birds

ROSEMERTA A Gaulish goddess of fertility and abundance, known as the great provider. ROWAN A tree associated with fairies and the Otherworld, often found near graveyards. Rowan trees were believed to have magical powers that could drive off or prevent evil. They were commonly planted near houses as protection and near wells to prevent the water from being contaminated. Boat builders incorporated a piece of rowan wood in the structure of each vessel to protect it from kelpies, sea devils, and...

Tristan and Iseult The famous love story

About Tristan and Iseult recounts the adventures of a pair of star-crossed lovers who are prohibited from marrying each other. While there are many versions of the tale it always begins with the aging King Marc'h of Cornwall. He sends his stepson Tristan (in medieval versions, he is the king's nephew) to Ireland to escort Iseult, the beautiful young daughter of a royal couple, back to Cornwall to marry the king. However, when Tristan and Iseult meet they fall in love. At fist, they deny their...

Bodb Derg

Anglo Saxon Knotwork

BLEMISHED KING The Celts strictly adhered to a rule that their kings must be free of any injury or illness. If a king had a physical flaw, he was forced to give up the throne. The best known of all blemished kings is Nuadu. When he lost his arm in battle he was deemed unfit to reign. However, he was so well loved by his kinsmen that they found a way to get around the rule. The children of the healer Dian Cecht made Nuadu a new arm that was so lifelike he was able to regain the throne. BLODEUEDD...

Furbaide Ferbend

To her horror, Fithir found that her sister was actually alive and imprisoned by the king in a tower. Overcome with sorrow, Fithir died of grief and shame. FIVE The number three was the most powerful number to the Celts and the number seven the most magical. But five was also a significant number that appears often in Celtic myth. For example, Ireland is divided into four historical provinces, but there was once also a fifth territory. Called Meath, or Mide, it was a magical...

Coligny Calendar

Tara, the mythical seat of the high king, and became a member of the Tuatha De Danann with his father. The hero later killed his grandfather as predicted. (See Cath Maige Wired.) Cian and his two brothers, the sons of Cainte, were rivals of Brian and his two brothers, the sons of Tuireann. While Cian was out walking alone one day, he saw the sons of Tuireann coming toward him. Because he was alone and wanted to avoid a fight, Cian turned himself into a pig and mingled with a nearby heard of...

A

See also Fianna Otherworld Fionn mac Cumhail and 57-58 Tuatha De Danann and 111-113 Adar Llwch Gwin 1. See also birds addar stones 1 Adhnuall 1 Fianna and 56 Leinster and 73 Adna 1 sister of Cesair 1 28-29 adventures 1, 104 Aed 1 1 Aife 2 and 2 Lir 2 and 73-74 Aed 2 1 Aed 3 1 king of Connacht 33 son of Dagda 41-42 Aed 4 1 king of Ulster 114 Aeron 1 Afagddu 1 Afduinna 5 Agrona 1 Ai Ardullach 2 daughter of Fionn 57-58 Ai Mac Ollamon 2 Tuatha De Danann and 111-113 Aibell 2. See also...

Celtic Mythology Bran The Blessed

Mitolog Celta

Battle against the Roman invasion inspired many sculptors and artists to use her as an image of British might and determination as well as an emblem of their own Queen's authority. Bran 1 Welsh king of Britain, known as Bran the Blessed. Bran was the giant son of Llyr and was the brother of Manawydan and Branwen. His half brothers were Nisien and Efnisien. Bran was too big to fit into a regular-sized house and always lived in tents or slept outdoors, under the stars. When he waded across the...

Celtic Myth Of

IGERNA iGRAiNE In Welsh mythology, the faithful wife of Gorlois, the Duke of Cornwall. The Welsh duke Uther Pendragon became smitten with her. With the help of the magician Merlin, Uther visited Igerna disguised as her husband. This union resulted in the birth of Arthur, the once and future king. When Gorlois died, Igerna married Uther. IMBOLC iMBOLG One of four major festivals, along with Samhain, Beltaine, and Lughnasa. Observed on February 1, Imbolc celebrates longer, light-filled days and...

Branwen

One day the dog returned from hunting with Sadb, a beautiful woman who was under the spell of a druid and appeared in the form of a young doe. The druid's enchantment was broken when Fionn and Sadb fell in love. Later, Sadb was lured back into the forest and resumed the form of a doe. In some versions of the tale, Bran the hound discovered the couple's child in the forest and brought the infant oisiN back to Fionn. Bran 3 An Irish hero. The son of Febail, Bran journeyed to an...

Celtic Fire

Back to life unless they have been decapitated. The kitchen servant Gwion Bach became the all-seeing poet Taliesin when he accidentally sampled the magic potion brewed in Ceridwen's cauldron. Gundestrup Cauldron An ornate silver cauldron was found in Gundestrup, Denmark in 1880. Originally gilded, it depicts Celtic gods, goddesses, and mythological scenes. The cauldron may have been made in Gaul, but its origin and its age are not known for certain. The decorations on the Gundestrup Cauldron...

Midir

This image of a mermaid was carved into the south chancel arch of Clonfert Cathedral in County Gal-way, Ireland. Photo by Trounce Used under a Creative Common license love, a mermaid tempts an unsuspecting man by bringing him precious jewels, pearls, and gold coins. Then she lures him underneath the waves, promising to show him a storehouse of treasures that she guards for the gods of the sea. There, the mermaid keeps the man prisoner for her own amusement, tethering him to a long, golden...

Brown Bull Of Ulster

She is also a goddess of poetry, worshiped by poets. She may even be a mother goddess. One side of her face is lovely while the other is ugly. Brigit was the daughter of the father god Dagda. She mated with Bres the Beautiful to produce a son, Ruadan. She had two lesser-known sisters. Both were also named Brigit. One was a physician and one was a Smith. The two minor sisters are probably simply other aspects of the dominant Brigit. Taken together, the three...

Fertility Goddesses See mother goddesses

Fiachra In Irish myth, one of the unfortunate children of Lir 2 , a member of the Tuatha De Danann. Fiachra and her three siblings were turned into swans by their father's second wife, their jealous stepmother who was also their aunt, AiFE 2 . The children remained swans for 900 years until the curse was broken by the marriage of a man from the North and a woman from the South. FlACHU MAC Fir FhEBE An Ulster hero who, along with Fergus, fought with Queen Medb of Connacht against his own...

Red Man of All Knowledge Celtic god

Who helps the hero Diarmait in the tale of the Loathly Lady. The Red Man is a messenger, prophet, and wise man from Land Under Wave, a place located in the Otherworld. He helps Diarmait in his quest to find the cup of healing water to cure the Loathly Lady, who is really a fairy princess. He also warns Diarmait of what will happen once the lady is cured, advising him to refuse all gifts except for the offer of a ride home on an enchanted ship. RHIANNON Welsh princess, wife of king Pwyll and...

Dermot See Diarmait

DESTRUCTIONS One of the story types found in Celtic myth. The tales describe the destruction of a building, often by fire. The best known of this literary form is The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel. In that story, a king's failure to follow his sacred vows result in his death. DlAN A Fianna chieftain who traveled to the Otherworld and back. Upon returning, he told his friends that he would rather be a slave of the Fianna than a ruler in the Otherworld. Another Dian was one of the three sons...

Cymraeg Cymric A dialect of the Celtic

Language that was spoken in Wales and also used a unique alphabet. The Celtic language evolved from the Indo-European languages, which were the basis for all languages spoken in Europe, India, Persia, and some parts of Asia. As the Celts spread out through Europe and Great Britain, they began to pronounce words differently or use different terms for the same ideas. Under British rule, Cymraeg was discarded or outlawed in favor of the English language. Today, because of renewed interest in...

Contents

Introduction vu Time Line for Celtic Culture xv Map of Celtic Europe 800-200 bce xv A-to-Z Entries 1 Selected Bibliography 124 Index 125 Mythology is a key that helps us unlock the mysteries of people, cultures, and civilizations of the past. Even after the inhabitants of these worlds are long gone, we can learn about them by reading their stories. Celtic pronounced KEL-tic mythology is no exception to this rule. The cast of characters in Celtic myth is a reflection of the society itself. These...

Horned One Celtic Mythology

Celtic Mythology

Celtic warriors often wore horned helmets to evoke the power of horned gods like Cernunnos. This helmet dates from the first century B.C. and is decorated in the La Tene style. Photo by Vissarion Used under a Creative Commons license HORNED GOD Early Celtic gods were often depicted with animal horns or antlers on their heads. Such horns were believed to be a symbol of male strength. The most prominent of the horned gods was the Gaul Cernunnos. The Gaul god Camu-lus and the British god CociDius...

Fairy Mounds

For all she gives, this fairy lives off of and drains the life force of her human lover, who remains her slave until he can find someone else to take his place. The Irish leipreachain, or lepracaun a name which means shoemaker , is another solitary fairy who sometimes plots mischief against humans they are also known as Cluricauns a drunk leprechaun and Far Darrig red man or practical joker . Yeats describes leipreachains as withered, old, and solitary and badly dressed, slouching, jeering,...

Milesians

He tricked Eochaid into letting her go. Either way, Eochaid and his men rescued Etain and brought her back home again. Milesians The final wave of invaders of Ireland, as described in the Lebcjr GabAla Book of Invasions . They were led by MiL Espaine, who wanted to avenge the death of his uncle, Ith. Mil, for whom the group was named, did not survive the journey. When Mil's sons and followers arrived in Ireland, they were greeted by Banba, Eriu, and Fodla. Each of the three beautiful goddesses...

Diarmait

Her father, wanting only to please the girl, told her that such a man lived nearby. He was NoisE, the nephew of Conchobar. His hair was as black as a raven's feathers, his skin was as white as snow, and his cheeks were flushed red as newly spilled blood. Deirdre pined for this man whom she had never met. She became so melancholy that her father agreed to arrange a meeting. The young man and the maiden fell in love instantly. Recognizing Deirdre as the infant who had been promised to his uncle...

Sualtam mac Roich Husband of Deichtine and foster father of Cuchulainn

Sucellus SUCELLUS, The God Striker A Gaulish god whose function is unclear. He carried a large hammer. He was possibly a king of the gods or a god of the dead. The cup or purse he carried could mean that he was a fertility god or a god of wealth and well-being. His consort was the water goddess Nantosuelta. Sulis A Gaulish goddess of healing and fertility. sun gods and sun goddesses The male and female deities often regional connected with the Sun. Male figures included Belenus and Beli Mawr....

Yeats William Butler Famous Irish POET

And dramatist leader of the nineteenth-century renewal of Celtic and traditional Irish culture. Yeats's poems, plays, and books reflected his deep love of Ireland and its myths. His life's work gained him the Noble Prize for literature in 1923 and deeply influenced a renewal of worldwide interest in Celtic culture. Born in Dublin in 1865, Yeats was just a baby when his family returned to London. He spent many of his boyhood summers at his grandparent's home in County Sligo, Ireland. He was not...

Brigit

Promised, Bricriu left the hall before the start of the great feast. But before departing, he turned and told the guests that they should decide among themselves who deserved the champion's portion. Bricriu and his wife then crept up into a balcony to watch and enjoy the chaos. As expected, each of the three Ulstermen announced his claim to the champion's portion. The argument soon became a fistfight. A wise Ulsterman, Sencha mac Ailella, ended the fight by suggesting that each guest get an...

ElThne Ingubai In some stories the wife of Cchulainn

Relief Goddess Pregnant

Elatha In Irish tales, the mystical Fomorian king who mated with riu of the Tuatha De Danann to produce Bres. Despite his family ties to the two warring factions, Bres failed to make peace between the two peoples. ELCMAR The alias of the Tuatha De Danann king Nuadu when he was serving as foster father to Angus g, the god of youth. ELDER A tree that, like the alder, seems to bleed when cut. The elder was thought to contain spirits of fertility. ELEN A Welsh heroine from the Mabinogion. She used...

B

BADB BadHBH, Black Crow Goddess of war or death who visited battlefields to incite mayhem, slaughter, and general confusion. Disguised as a crow, she visited the celebrated Ulsterman Cuchu-lainn. She visited Dagda in the form of a woman and assured his victory in the second battle of Mag Tuired. Badb was one of a triad of great Irish queens, along with Macha 1 and MoRRiGAN. Together, they are known as the MoRRiGNA. See battle gods and goddesses. Balor Balar A mighty Fomorian leader, warrior,...

Time line for Celtic Culture

6000 B.c. 1000 B.c. ca. 900 B.c. ca. 800 B.c. Beginning of the Stone Age Beginning of the Iron Age The use of iron spreads into Europe First Celtic people in central Europe Hallstatt era begins Celts settle in Spain First Celtic tribes arrive in Ireland from Spain Celts continue to colonize British Isles, move into Scotland Height of Celtic influence in Britain La Tene culture era begins the first heroic and royal sagas are created Celtic tribes expand into Italy, Spain, France, and Bavaria...

Alphabet See ogham

AMAETHON 1 In Welsh tales, the magician son of the goddess Don. His brother, Gwydion, was also a powerful magician. When Amaethon stole a deer, a bird, and a dog from Annwfn, the Welsh Otherworld, he angered the deities there. Arawn, the ruler of Annwfn, declared war on Amaethon and his brother, Gwydion. Just when all seemed lost, Gwydion used magic to turn trees into warriors. With the aid of their magical army, the brothers managed to defeat the gods. The battle was called Cad Goddeu, or the...

Tuatha De Danann

Badb, Macha 1 , and MorrIgan are their three great queens or war goddesses. Each member of the Tuatha De Danann has a special significance, skill, or capacity. The principal characters and their main traits are as follows Angus Og was the god of youth and beauty and a protector of lovers. BOand was a river goddess who gave her name to the river Boyne. She was the wife of Dagda. Brigit was the fiery goddess of poetry and the patron of storytellers and bards. Cian was a shape...

Boudicca

Boudicca And Her Daughters

This statue of Boudicca by Thomas Thornycroft shows the Icene queen confronting the Romans in full warrior regalia. Her two daughters sit behind their mother. Photo by Kit36 Used under a Creative Commons license ambushed General Quintus Petilius Cerialis and his 6,000 legionnaires as they marched south. His entire infantry excepting for 500 cavalry officers was slaughtered. The general retreated back to his fortress in the north. Next, Boudicca's forces attacked the Roman headquarters in the...

F

Fairies 53-54, 53 See also changeling Gwynn ap Nudd 62 Medb 81 in Shakespeare 54 Yeats, William Butler and 53, 121 stdh 54 fairy seals. See selkies Fand 54 35-38 wife of Manannan mac lir 80 Feast of Tara. See Feis Medb and 81 Fedlimid mac Daill 54 Feimhin 54. See also fairies Fionn mac Cumhail and 57-58 Feis Temhra Feast of Tara 54 Fenian Cycle xi, 54-55. See also Cath Gabhra Cycle of Kings Mother Goddesses Mythological Cycle Ulster Cycle Fer Caille 35-38 Scathach and 100 Fergus Finbel 55...

Brian Of Celtic Legend

He sat with his father, Matholwch, and played affectionately with his uncles Bendigeidfran and Nisien. His other uncle, the jealous Efnisien, however, took offense, as the boy was not playing with him. Efnisien called Gwern to him, and the boy came running with friendship and affection. Efnisien grabbed the child and hurled him headfirst into the roaring hearth fire. Branwen cried out at this horrendous act, and the men reached for their arms. A great battle broke out in the house that...

Lugaid Laga

To the fireplace, takes pity on the wretched woman. He gives her his bed and blanket. The Loathly Lady notices Diarmait's love spot, a facial blemish put there by the fairies. The spot makes any women who looks at it fall in love with the young man. The Loathly Lady says she has wandered the world alone for the past seven years. Diarmait reassures her and tells her she can sleep all night and he will protect her. Towards dawn, he notices that she has become a beautiful young woman. The next...

Celtic Mythology A to Z ca ad

Europe 500

Saint Patrick brings new era of religion, education, and literature to Ireland Christianity starts to spread to Wales Earliest written texts of Celtic literature Nuclear homeland of Celtic tribes Celtic settlement at its greatest extent in the fifth century BCE Etruscan lands, ca. 500 BCE Celtic migration Nuclear homeland of Celtic tribes Etruscan lands, ca. 500 BCE Celtic migration Abartach Abarta, Performer of Feats A god of the Tuatha De Danann. He used trickery to lure a group of Fianna...

Arms And Armor

Celtic Weapons And Armor

Who heard their song were unable to sleep for three days and three nights. animals Celtic myth is replete with tales involving animal characters. Animals are intertwined with the lives and stories of gods, goddesses, and heroes, and they often have magical powers of their own. Some Celtic deities had animal characteristics, such as Cernunnos, who had the horns of a stag. Deities with links to animals include Artio, the bear goddess, Arduinna, the boar goddess, and Epona, the horse goddess. Many...

G

GAEL A term used to distinguish Celts who lived in the Scottish Highlands and Ireland from the Manx who lived on the Isle of Man, the Cymry, or Bry-thonic, Celts who lived in southern Britain Wales, Cornwall, and Breton , and the Gauls who lived in Europe. A Gael is also used to describe any Scots or Irish citizen who speaks Gaelic, the Goidelic dialect of the original Celtic language. Gaelic Goidelic A term used to describe any aspect of Celtic culture that flourished in Ireland and Scotland,...

Women Warriors And Rulers

Ing to decapitate him, and taking the gold back and presenting it to her husband. Another queen, called Teuta by the Romans, was chosen by a council of tribal chieftains to rule her dead husband's territory on the Illyrian coast. The ambitious queen made trouble among the Greeks, Romans, and Illyrian tribes by attacking the neighboring state of Epiros with the help of the Celtic mercenaries employed to protect the city. She also assassinated the Roman ambassador who threatened her with death if...

Dylan

Used the fog to hide from druids as they passed him by. Fairies were also said to have the power to make themselves invisible. DRYANTORE A giant who sought revenge against Fionn and his men after they killed his three sons and his sister's husband. Dryantore trapped the Irish warriors in a druid's fog. He captured Fionn and imprisoned him in his Otherworld palace. The Fianna freed Fionn and killed Dryantore in the battle. DUBH DUB, DUIBHLINN A dark Irish druid and bard who gave her name to...

Fergus Mac Roich

Some of the most well-known and beloved in Celtic myth. They include the stories of Fionn's youth, such as how he gained his supernatural wisdom by touching the flesh of a magical salmon. They also include the exploits of the great warriors from their minor skirmishes to their great battles. Among the latter was Cath Gaehba, The Battle of Gabhair. That conflict began when the Fianna demanded a dowry from Cairbre Lifechair, the Irish high king, upon the marriage of his daughter. Cairbre refused...

Beltaine

Of battles or foretell the death of a certain warrior in combat. They sometimes took part in battles themselves, luring warriors into traps so that they were vulnerable to their enemies, or even killing them directly. They were often associated with the crow or the raven. The most ominous of the battle gods and goddesses was the frightful trio of goddesses known as the MoRRiGNA. This was the collective name for the Irish war goddesses Badb, Macha 1 , and Mor-RiGAN. All three were associated...

Yellow Book of Lecan One of three

The Sunken City

Important sources of Celtic mythology, along with the Book of the Dun Cow and the Book of Leinster Created in the 14th century, The Yellow Book of Lecan is not as old as the other two volumes, which were compiled around a.d. 1100. It was a private undertaking, created for a family clan Lecan was the name of their castle. The Yellow Book of Lecan contains a version of The Cattle Raid of Cooley TAin Bo Cuailnge . It also includes versions of great stories such as The Wooing of Etain and The...

Celtic Legend Waterhorse

Tailtiu 106 Tain Bo Cuailnge Cattle Raid of Cooley xii, 106-107 Taliesin 107. See also Ceridwen Gwiion Bach Elffin and 107 Tara 107 Niell and 89 Taranis 107 Tarvos Trigaranus 107. See also Bulls Tayrnon 108 Tech Duinn 108 Tethra 108 sea gods 100 Teutates 108 Thirteen Treasures of of Etain 109 tore 110, 110 Tory Island 110 trees 110-111 Tristan and Iseult 111, 111 First Battle of Mag Tuired 112-113 Ith killrf by 69 Second Battle of Mag Tuired 113 Tuireann 113 Uath mac Imoman 114 Uathach 114...

V

VlNDONNUS A Gaulish god who may have been a healer of eye diseases. VISIONS One of the story types found in Celtic myth. Others include adventures, cattle raids, destructions, voyages, and wooings. Vision stories are also called aislings, the Irish word for visions or dreams. One example of this literary form is the story of Angus Og, who fell in love with Caer 1 after seeing her in his dreams. VOYAGES One of the story types found in Celtic myth also called by the Irish word for voyages,...

Donn Cuailnge

Welsh Mother Goddess Don

Every night while fleeing the aging Irish hero Fionn, to whom Grainne was engaged to be wed. DOMNU MOTHER GODDESS of the FOMORIANS. DON The Welsh mother goddess in the Mabinogion equivalent to the Irish Ana or Danu. She may also be a goddess of the Otherworld. Don was the wife of the Welsh god Beli Mawr. She was the mother of several important characters, whose fathers are not always named. Don was the mother of the beautiful moon goddess Arianrhod and the kings Lludd 1 and Llefelys by Beli...

H

Scottish Harp

Hafgan One of two dueling gods of Annwfn, the Welsh Otherworld. The other is Arawn. The two fought over power, control, and territory in Annwfn. Hafgan had special powers only a single blow from a mortal could kill him. Even if one blow seriously wounded him, the second would heal his wounds. So no matter how many times Arawn and Hafgan battled, even if Arawn appeared to win the fight, Hafgan always lived again the following day. Arawn finally devised a plan to outwit Hafgan. Arawn traded...

Fionn Maccumhail

Irish Designs Finn Mccool

Giant's Causeway, on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland. According to legend, Irish giant Finn McCool built Giant's Causeway Clochan na bhFomharach on his way to fight a Scottish giant named Benandonner. Photo by Code Poet Used under a Creative Commons license FlNNECES FlNEGAS The druid who unintentionally helped Fionn gain the power of divination. When Finneces caught the salmon of knowledge, he gave it to his pupil, Fionn. While cooking the fish for the druid, the boy burned his thumb...

The Wooing Of Etan

A renowned and divine beauty of Ireland perhaps a sun goddess see also sun gods and sun goddesses . She may also have connections to the horse goddess Epona and the princess Rhiannon. tain is the heroine of several conflicting tales. The most famous is Tochmarc Etaine The Wooing of Etain . King Midir won Ftafn through trickery and brought her Rome with him to his kingdom in the Otherworld. But Midir's first wife was jealous and turned the beautiful maiden into a fly. Tochmarc Etafne The Wooing...

Segais See Well of Segais

SELKIES fairy seals Selkies are thought to be fairies that live underwater and can shape shift from a seal form to a human form in order to find a mate. Folktales about selkies are popular in Scotland's Shetland and Hebrides Island regions. Fairy seals are said to swim from island to island and sun themselves on rocks, scouting out local women and fishermen. When they find a likely mate, they float out a jewel to entice the person into the water then drag him or her under the waves. In some...

Yspaddaden Penkawr

Anything, Gradlon sets his engineers to work to build a fabulous city called Ys, which rises out of the sea itself. An ingenious dike is built with a brass sea gate to hold back the water. Gradlon keeps the key to this sea gate on a chain around his neck. The City of Ys is a beautiful place where feasts, games, songs, and dances are given daily in Dahut's honor. Sailors stop there from all over the world, bringing new men to the attention of the love-starved Dahut, who takes a new lover every...

HAWK See birds

HAZEL A revered tree and a symbol of wisdom. Its fruit, the hazelnut, was said to give wisdom to whoever ate it, especially if the tree grew at the head of a river. Hazel trees were connected to water and the fish that swam in it. One could also gain wisdom by eating the flesh of a salmon that had eaten hazelnuts. The fish would grow one spot on its flesh for each hazelnut it ate. The more spots a salmon had, the more wisdom it would bring to whoever ate it. Connla's Well was a mystical spring...

Lludd Lud See Nudd

LlYr Welsh sea god about whom little is known, comparable to the Irish Manannan mac Lir. He was the father of Branwen, Bran 1 the Blessed, and Manawydan. Loathly Lady A troubled female spirit of the Otherworld, who at first appears ugly and distraught, like an Irish banshee or hag. Her rude behavior and misery is really a test to discover a worthy man who will treat her with kindness and consideration, two powerful acts of love that can restore her beauty. This supernatural being is only able...

Thirteen Treasures of Britain Thirteen

Cernunnos Torc

Treasures Magical possessions that only work for a worthy Celtic ruler or hero, thereby giving him an advantage in social and military situations. They are similar to the four magical possessions used by the Tuatha De Danann to test whether a newly selected tribal king is fit to rule. These thirteen treasures are described in the myths and legends set down in the Mabinogion and The Welsh Triads. Each treasure is named for the person connected with the legend in which the object is featured....

Kings

Body temperature so hot that he can keep himself dry in a rainstorm, and the ability to stay under water for nine days in a row without coming up for a breath. The one-armed Bedwyr is swifter than a deer and has the strength of three warriors in his good arm. In this story, Kilhwch, a young, handsome, and brave cousin of King Arthur, falls under a love spell and sets off in search of Olwen, a woman he has only heard about but never seen. Several knights agree to go on the quest with him. They...

Culann

Themselves into birds to fly over the land hunting for C chulainn. Although unable to see him feasting within the hall at Deaf Glen, they saw his horses and chariot waiting outside. The children of Cailit n conjured up the phantom army a third time. Inside Deaf Glen, C chulainn could not hear the terrible battle cries, the war trumpets, or the thundering hoofs of the horses, but the smell of the torches and the light of the camp fires lured him outside. In the cold night air, he saw a great...

Bendigeidfran

Celtic Mythology Birds

The Otherworld, so the Beltaine fires were also intended to scare away wayward spirits. Beltaine was also considered a good day to begin an ambitious project. In Welsh tradition, May 1 was Calan Mai. It was thought to be an especially lucky day and a good day for magic. Bendigeidfran Another name for the Welsh King Bran 1 the Blessed, used in the set of tales called the maeinogion. He was the sister of Bran-wen, whose ill treatment at the hands of an Irish king sparked war between the two...

Colum Cuaillemech A smith of the Tuatha De Danann

Conaire A high king who ruled at Tara in Ireland but died for failing to honor the sacred vows placed upon him see Geis . His parents were the mortal woman Mess Buachalla and the bird god Nemglan. He was the grandson of the goddess or fairy queen ETAiN. The story The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel describes Conaire's downfall. At his inauguration, Conaire took the traditional series of sacred vows. But Conaire was destined to break every geis placed upon him. When two of his foster brothers...

Chariot

Cesair was a powerful magician and may also have been an earth goddess. Her mother is sometimes given as Banba, one of three goddesses for whom Ireland is named. Otherwise, her mother is given as Birren, the mortal wife of Bith. CESAIR 2 A Gaulish princess who was the wife of the Irish chieftain Ugaine Mor. CETHERN MAC FINTAIN A Connacht warrior who fought in Tain bo Cuailnge The Cattle Raid of Cooley . His weapon of choice was a silver spear. He was wounded and captured by the men of Ulster...

Horn

A group of Celtic high crosses mark a burial plot in Ireland. Photo by Adam Harner Shutterstock A group of Celtic high crosses mark a burial plot in Ireland. Photo by Adam Harner Shutterstock seen in the elaborate designs of the Christian Book of Kells. HIGH KING ard rf In Irish Celtic culture, the leader who ruled from Tara. Though distinguished from lower or petty kings, it is unclear what power the high king had over the other Irish kings. The office was ceremonial and religious rather than...

L

La Tene era 72-73, 72f second phase of Celtic culture viii Labraid Lamderg 72 Laeg 72. See also charioteer See Tir na nOg Lebor Gabbala Book of Invasions 73 Lecan, Book of. See Yellow Munster leprechaun. See fairies Lia Fail Stone of Destiny 73 crane bag Liath Macha 73 Lieu Llaw Gyffes 74. See also Blodeuedd Dylan Betrayal of Blodeuedd 74 Tragic Story of the Children of 73-74 Llefelys 74 Lludd 2 . See Nudd Llyr add hat on y 74 Loathly Lady 74-75 Otherworld spirit 92-93 Loegaire 75 hero of...

Fairy Seals See selkies

Fand Wife of the sea god Manannan mac Lir. She fell in love with Cuchulainn. Their affair aroused the jealousy of Emer, Cuchulainn's wife. At first, Emer planned to kill Fand, but then she saw that Fand and Cuchulainn were truly in love. Emer offered to give up Cuchulainn. Fand, moved by Emer's selfless act, also offered to step aside. Manan-nan solved the conflict by shaking his magical robe between Fand and Cuchulainn, thus casting a spell that made the two forget each other forever. Fedelm A...

Celtic God Of Lugos

The God of All Skills Lugh did not start out as a member of the Tuatha De Danann. He had to earn his acceptance in the group. One night he arrived at the gates of Tara and was stopped by the guards, who asked his name and business. Lugh told them his name and said that he wanted to join their ranks. But the guards scoffed at Lugh and asked what he could possibly have to offer. Lugh replied that he knew how to forge powerful tools and weapons that never missed their mark. The guards were...

River Goddesses

Tayrnon brought the infant to his wife, and the childless couple decided to raise the boy as their own. The foundling grew fast and was extremely strong. When he was four, his foster father gave him the pony that had been born on the same night that he was found. The child quickly tamed the horse and rode it as if he were nobly born. As the golden-curled child grew, his parents began to recognize in his face the features of King Pwyll. Soon they could no longer deny...

Glanis A Gaulish god of healing springs

GOEWIN A beautiful virgin whose duty was to serve as foot-holder to Math, the ruler of Gwynedd in the north of Wales. The young woman's duty was to hold Math's feet in her lap whenever he was home. When Math's nephew Gilfaethwy raped the maiden, Math married her to protect her reputation. Gofannon Govannon A Welsh smith god one of the children of Don. In the Mabinogion, Gofannon unwittingly killed his nephew, Dylan, the son of Arianrhod. Dylan was a creature that fled to the sea immediately...

Invasions of Ireland See book of

IOUA An ancient Scottish moon goddess who is the namesake of the sacred island of Iona. IRNAN iARNACH In Irish myth, one of three daughters of the god Conaran of the Tuatha De Danann. All three were skilled in the art of magic. The sisters spun a web to catch members of the Fianna. The Fenian warrior Goll mac Morna came to rescue his men from the snare. He killed Irnan's lesser-known sisters and threatened to kill her, too. She pretended she would break the spell and release Irish Princess...

Pwyll

They learned to recite immense amounts of verse by heart. There were several different ranks of poet. The fili were a class of poets who enjoyed a higher status than the bard, for example. The highest rank among the fili was the Ollam, equal to a petty king, but lower in status than the druid. Most important households and courts employed a resident poet. Several gods and goddesses are named as patrons of the poets and their literary tradition. The best known is Brigit. Several of the gods of...

CRANE See birds

CRANE BAG A purse made from the skin of A FE 3 , who was cursed to live for 200 years in the form of a crane. Upon her death, the sea god Manannan mac Lir used Aife's skin to make a bag. In it, he stowed his knife, his shirt, a pair of shears belonging to the king of Scotland, a helmet belonging to the king of Lochlainn, the bones of Assal's magical swine, and the bones of a great whale. The bag had many other owners, including Lugh Lamfhota and Fionn. Cred Credhe A fairy who inspires devotion...

Heros Portion Another name for the champions portion

HIGH CROSS Celtic cross One of the most recognizable symbols of Celtic culture, the high cross is found in graveyards all over rural Great Britain. The crosses are not part of Celtic mythology, but date from the introduction of Christianity to the region. However, the elaborate entwined knots and mazes on these high crosses are distinctly Celtic in their aesthetic style. The most elaborate of these, such as 9th-century sandstone Muiredach's Cross at Monasterboice, Ireland, contains scenes from...

Ceridwen

CERIDWEN A Welsh crone and goddess of dark prophetic powers, inhabitant of the Underworld and keeper of the cauldron that brews inspiration and divine knowledge. Ceridwen had two children the light and beautiful Creirwy and the dark and ugly Morfran. To compensate for Morfran's shortcomings, Ceridwen brewed him up a cauldron full of a potion. Anyone who drank it would immediately gain amazing wisdom. She put the kitchen servant, Gwion Bach, in charge of stirring the pot. When three hot drops of...

Spear Of Lugh

The king who failed to honor the land by being a good ruler could be killed or forced to resign. The Irish sun goddess Mor Muman is an example of a sovereign goddess see also sun gods and sun goddesses . Ireland's patron goddess eriu, who represents the land of Ireland, is also a symbol of sovereignty. Spear of Lugh The deadly lightning spear of Lugh Lamfhota. The weapon never missed its mark and always returned to the hand that threw it. It was one of four magical items of the...

Lugaid Mac

L GAID MAC CON A mythical Munster king whose story is told in the Cycle of Kings. Lugaid was defeated in battle by his foster brother, E gan. He fled to Scotland with a handful of his loyal men. Disguised as common travelers, they were taken in by a generous king. Lugaid and his men enjoyed their host's hospitality for one year. No one guessed Lugaid's royal identity. But one day word arrived from Ireland that E gan had turned out to be a poor leader. Because he was not the rightful heir to the...

Charioteer

Four chariot wheels and a huge urn used by Celtic tribes in Gaul before the Roman Empire. Photo by P. Line Used under a Creative Commons license with intricate and colorful patterns or stylized depictions of animals. CHARIOTEER The chariot driver played an important role in the life and work of a champion warrior. He was a trusted advisor, servant, and companion. He helped his warrior devise strategies, carried him into battle, and rescued him if needed. As such, charioteers enjoyed a high...

Stone of FAl Stone of Destiny See Lia Fail

Story types Several types or classes of stories are common in Celtic myth. These literary forms include adventures, cattle raids, destructions, visions, voyages, and wooings. The plots of stories within each category are similar. Adventures These stories often involve a hero's journey to the Otherworld. The heroes of adventure tales include Art mac Cuinn, Cormac mac Airt, Loegaire, and Connla 1 . In The Adventures of Connla, a fairy promises the hero he will never suffer from old age or death....

King Arthur See Arthur

KINGS Leaders of the Tuath, the basic territorial unit of early Irish society. The term ri denoted a petty king, while an ard ri might have been a king of higher stature or one who ruled all of Ireland. Many kings ruled at Tara in Ireland and in various provinces on the island, but there was no one sovereign for the entire nation. Ritual tests determined a man's worthiness to rule. The Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny, shrieked when touched by the rightful heir to a throne. Taking the throne...

Sli Abh Namban SlIevenamom A towering mountain on a ridge of low hills in County

Welsh Mythology Horned Man

Prehistoric sidhe in Wales called Bryn Celli Ddu, or mound of the dark grove. The entrance is aligned so that on the summer solstice, the sun illuminates a quartz stone at the back of the cave. Such mounds were believed to be entrances to the Otherworld. Photo by I. J. Anderson Tipperary, Ireland, which has both mythical and historical associations. The mountain was connected with the tales of the hero Fionn mac Cumhail and his dealings with the ancient female fairies known as the Feimhin, who...

U

Uar A monster of Munster who preyed on Fionn and his men. His three rapacious, one-eyed sons were named 111 Omen, Damage, and Want. UATHACH The daughter of Sc thaoh and a love interest of Cuchulainn. UATH MAC IMOMAN A druid or shape shifter who tested the heroes Cuchulainn, L egaire, and Conall by inviting them to cut off his head and then bidding them return the next day to have their own heads cut off. L egaire and Conall did not go through with the second part of the game. Only C chulainn...

GoiDELIC See Gaelic

GoiDEL GLAS In the Lebor Gabala Book of Invasions , the creator of the Gaelic languages. When Goidel was an infant, the biblical Moses cured him of a snakebite and said that he and his descendants would live in a land free of serpents. With the aid of his grandfather, who had been present at the separation of languages at Babel, Goidel created the Irish language from all of the languages then in existence. Goll MAC Morna Leader of a Fianna based in Connacht both friend and foe to Fionn in the...

Bricriu

He was alone, Cian thought it best to avoid confrontation. He disguised himself as a pig and mingled with a nearby herd. Brian, however, caught sight of the transformation of the armed man into a pig. Because the Tuatha De Danann were on the brink of war, this strange sight made him nervous. Brian turned his brothers into two hounds, who drove the enchanted beast from the rest of the herd. When the pig emerged from the herd and ran toward the woods, Brian threw his spear at the creature and...

Tuireann

The Fir Bolg took the province of Connacht, where some of them stayed for generations thereafter. Many of their members fled to distant islands. Despite their victory, all was not well with the Tuatha De Danann. As a leader, Bres was found wanting. He forced the gods to work for him and lacked such royal qualities as generosity and hospitality. Meanwhile, the Fomorians began to rise in power. The Tuatha De Danann ousted Bres and reinstated Nuadu, whose arm had been healed. In response to this...

Cauldron of Dagda a symbol of the

Generosity and hospitality of Dagda, the father god. The giant cauldron was always brimming with delicious food for the gods to eat. It was one of four magical items, along with the Sword of Nuadu, the Spear of Lugh, and the Lia Fail a prophetic stone , that the Tuatha De Danann brought to Ireland. Celt Kelt The name of the culture, religion, and mythology shared by related tribes of European people who flourished between 800 b.c. and 500 a.d. Scholars have many theories about the origin of the...

Mythological Cycle One of four major

Cycles of Old and Middle Irish literature, along with the Ulster Cycle, the Fenian Cycle, and the Cycle of Kings. Of the four cycles, it deals most directly with the origins of Celtic beliefs and early religion. The tales are infused with magic and its characters include many important gods, goddesses, kings, and heroes. Among the goddesses described in the Mythological Cycle are Ana, the mother of Ireland Boand, who drowned in her quest for knowledge and CLiDNA, who drowned seeking love. The...

Niam

Various Geographical Features

Newgrange gravesite from 3100 B.c. near the Boyne River in Ireland, believed by the Celts to be a passage to the Otherworld. Used under a Creative Common license NEWGRANGE A gravesite near the river Boyne in Ireland that was built around 3100 B.c. Early Celts would have considered it a passage to the Otherworld. Some say the site is Brughna Boinne, the home of Boand and Dagda and later Angus Og. See also sidh. Niall One of the great high kings of Tara, thought to be a real ruler who lived in...

Connla

He reasoned that as queen of Ulster she surely could do no harm to her people. When Deirdre grew older, however, she met and fell in love with Conchobar s nephew Noise. Although Noise knew Deirdre was promised to his uncle, he eloped with her. Conchobar, hearing of this betrayal, was furious. He pursued the couple across Ireland and into Scotland but could not catch them. With help from Angus Og, the god of love, Deirdre and Noise found shelter and aid...

Shakespeare William

Bheirre went from youth to maturity in seven cycles, so that she had seven husbands who died of old age during her lifetime. Cuchulainn seems especially connected with the number seven. The hero had seven foster fathers. He earned his name when he was seven years old. And, when the hero was in his battle rage, his eye had seven pupils. Shakespeare, WILLIAM The famous Elizabethan playwright William Shakespeare incorporated elements of Celtic myths and folk tales into his plays to amuse and spook...

Bulls

Into bits Doesn t he realize that the Buggane s eyes could blind the tailor Had the tailor ever seen such long horny fingers and sharp talons With each question, the tailor, never looking up from his stitches, replies that he will answer as soon as he finishes his seam. And with each reply, the Buggane gets angrier with the tailor and comes up another step to reveal himself, asking questions as he does. Doesn t the tailor see his ugly head Isn t he frightened of being ripped to shreds Doesn t...

Afagddu

Agrona An early British goddess of battle or slaughter. Agrona may have given her name to the Welsh battle god Aeron as well as to the river Aeron in Wales. See battle gods and goddesses. Ai Arduallach The willful Irish daughter of Fionn. To her father s dismay, she turned down a marriage proposal from the king of Scotland, refusing to wed any man who was not Irish. Ai mac Ollamon Mac Ollavain A poet of the Tuatha De Danann. When his mother was pregnant with him, a gust of wind shook her house....