Curious about Celtic mythology?

This article provides a complete introduction to the myths and legends that surround it!

Indo-European people, the Celts emigrated from Eastern Europe during the second millennium BC. During their maximum expansion, they occupied all of Europe from Spain to present-day Turkey. Then they withdrew, around 200 BC, to the westernmost territories: Brittany in France, England, Wales, Ireland and western Scotland.

We know the continental Celts through Roman historians who “interpreted” the Celtic gods in terms of their approximate Roman equivalents, losing their Celtic flavor along the way. Here is the Gallic religion as Cesar understands it.

More reliable information about the western Celts is available because Ireland was never Romanized and was not converted to Christianity until the fifth century CE.

The Celts worshipped several hundred gods and goddesses who are very poorly known to us because of the lack of reliable sources.

The Sources of the Myths

Unable to understand Celtic customs, the ancients sought to justify the conquest of their territories by describing the Celts as undisciplined barbarians eager for violence and engaging in savage rituals. The discovery of numerous Celtic artifacts has allowed researchers to obtain a different vision than the one described by the Greek-Roman authors. In fact, the Celts were a people of great intelligence and wealth, whose artistic and technical qualities remained unequalled in prehistoric Europe.


Written after the fall of the Roman Empire and dealing only with areas outside of pre-Roman Celtic Europe, the Irish and Welsh texts are of little use in understanding the mythology of the Pagan Celts. In spite of this, these stories compiled by monks are interesting in their own right and shed light on the way in which certain mythological traditions inspired the Arthurian romances of the medieval period.

  • The Ulster Cycle, or Red Branch Cycle, describes the heroes and kings of protohistoric Ireland and the customary intervention of the gods. The Tain Bo Cuailnge (Razzia of the Cows of Cooley) is the most important account of the invasion of Ulster by Queen Medb and the exploits of Cuchulainn.
  • The mythological cycle, whose main text is the Cath Maighe Tuireadh (<>), centers on the struggle of the Tuatha De Danann gods with the Fir Bolg (first battle of Mag Tuired), then with the Fomoires (second battle). Another important text, Tochmarc Etaine (<>), is dedicated to the goddess Etain. To this cycle, we must associate the Immrama.
  • The Fenian cycle or Finn cycle is devoted to the adventures of Fionn Mac Cumhaill, his son Oisin and his troop of warriors, the Fianna Eireann.
  • The historical cycle or cycle of the kings is composed of legendary annals. The most important text is the Lebor Gabala Erenn (<< Book of the Conquests of Ireland >>) which relates the << history >> of the invasions of Ireland (including that of the gods, the Tuatha De Danann), from the flood to the arrival of the mythical ancestors of the Gaels.

The Welsh texts are more Christianized and the mythological elements are less apparent than in the Irish texts. The important story is the Mabinogion, also called The Four Branches of the Mabinogion.


These are four stories from Wales, which date from the early 13th century. They are contained in two fourteenth-century manuscripts (the Red Book of Hergest and the White Book of Rhydderch), related to each other, and are referred to by the names of each of their heroes: Pwyll, Branwen, Manawyddan, Math. The title derives from the word << mabinog >>, which means << young boy >> and it is customary to translate it as << Instructions for young bards >>.

The work, as a whole, relates fantastic stories in which the mages play a great role. One attends enchantments and metamorphoses, one discovers monstrous animals, strange and mysterious landscapes.
Other notable texts are Breuddwyd Macsen Wledig (Macsen’s Dream), Lludd a Llefelys (Lludd and Llevelys), Culhwch ac Olwen (Kulhwch and Olwen), Breuddwyd Rhonabwy (Rhonabwy’s Dream), Hanes Taliesin (The Tale of Taliesin).

Gods and goddesses of Celtic mythology


Celtic mythology includes countless gods and goddesses from most European countries. The Irish worship goddesses like :

  • Aine : goddess of the sun
  • Danu : goddess of the earth
  • Fand : goddess of the sea
  • Brigid : goddess of fire
  • Morrigan : goddess of healing
  • Matcha : goddess of destiny
  • Badb : goddess of fear
  • Banbha : goddess of protection
  • Bé Chuille : goddess of sorcery
  • Cliîodhna : goddess of the Banshee
  • Ernimas : the mother goddess

But the gods are still very important for the Celts, as illustrated by the example of :

  • Lug : main god of the Irish
  • Arawn : god of the Sidh
  • Dagda and Diancecht : god of the priestly classes
  • Arianrod : god of the moon
  • Oengus : god of the sun
  • Ogmios : god of the warriors
  • Manana : god of the sea

Note that the Welsh also have their own gods and goddesses, such as :

  • Sylvain : god of trees
  • Belenus : god of light, sun and fire
  • Sucellus : god of wealth
  • Taranis : god of lightning
  • Cernunnos : god of animals
  • Epona : goddess company of travelers
  • Belisama : goddess of the moon
  • Teutates : god of the other world

Like the Gauls and the Irish, the Welsh also have a polytheistic system. But they have the same deities as the Irish, so they are like the Celts.

Links between Celtic and Norse mythology


Norse mythology is a mythology from the time of the Vikings, who were warriors, explorers and traders in Northern Europe, more precisely in Scandinavia, just like the Celts. The religion of the Vikings is based on polytheism, which is characterized by the worship of several gods at the same time. But as in all other legends, the Vikings also have their own goddesses, known as Valkyries.


The Vikings also believed that nature was controlled by gods such as Fjord: god of the sea and wind, Freyre: god of light and Vala: god of revenge. The myths of the Nordic culture are marked by the existence of magicians, explains Robert Boyer, a famous writer.

The dead also occupy an important place in Norse mythology because they symbolize the journey of a human being to the Vikings’ paradise called Walhalla. This passage to the other world is illustrated by the funeral ships.

Generalities on celtic mythology


Celtic mythology is the collection of myths and legends of the Western European countries during the protohistoric/antique period. It forms a considerable part of Celtic religion, beliefs and culture.

Authors such as Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Iodides of Sicily or Parthenon of Nicaea give us their views on the origin of Celtic myths and legends. In their works, we find that the Celts are the heirs of Hercules but also of Galatea and of a Cyclops.

A Celtic linguist named Georges Dumézil offers us a complete panorama of the three mythologies of these Indo-Europeans according to their regions. He presents three types of mythology: Celtic-Gallic mythology, Celtic-Welsh mythology and Irish mythology.

Celtic-gallic mythology


The Celts settled in the Gallic regions during the Old Age. Most of Western Europe, including Italy, France, the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland, made up Gaul. The Gauls honored several gods, the most sovereign of which was Mercury, reputed to be a god who accompanied merchants and travelers. But they also had other gods according to their functions:

  • Teutates: god of wealth and death
  • Cernons : god of animals
  • Sylvain : god of the forest
  • Eus : god of the cosmos
  • Belenos : god of health and the sun.
  • Taranis : god of lightning and thunder

Goddesses are also very important in Celtic and Gallic mythology. They worship four goddesses: Rosmerta, the goddess of providence, Belisama, the goddess of the forge and the moon, Nantosuelta, the goddess of the river, and the famous Epona, the goddess who has the same attribute as Mercury. In the past, their cults took place in sanctuaries but with the repetition of earthquakes that hit the depths of the caves, the Gauls preferred to give their cult directly to the gods.

Welsh celtic mythology

Welsh celtic mythology

Like the Gallic region, Wales is also located in Western Europe, more precisely in the western part of Great Britain.

The myth of Gwion Bach in a mythological work entitled “The Legend of the Magic Cauldron of Cerridwen” and the legend of Prince Pwyll and his wife Rhiannon in Tolkien’s work reflect the fabulous legends and myths of the gods and goddesses of Welsh Celtic mythology.

Tolkien describes how magic, song, gods and goddesses are central to Welsh Celtic mythology. In the legend of the magic cauldron, he reveals that Cerridwen is both a goddess and a magician. In everyday life, she loves to sing, an art that has a special meaning in Tolkien’s work. Singing is synonymous with power, a notion present in the theory of magic.

Tolkien also shows us that in order to become a god, one must win a specific battle, such as the one between Prince Pwyll and another prince. In other words, the Celtic Welsh civilization is marked by different battles.

Irish celtic mythology

Irish celtic mythology

There are three types of social classes in Irish Celtic mythology: the king who is the ruler, the people with priestly functions, the equivalent of the priest today, and the ruled. Generally, the king rules the people, but in Irish Celtic mythology, it is the scholars commonly called “druids” who dictate to the king and the different types of social classes such as slaves and warriors. The king seeks the consent of the druids at every opportunity. Druids are omnipresent in all three cases of Celtic mythology. The Siddhi, which symbolizes the other world, is one of the most important legends among Irish Celtic myths. The gods and goddesses occupy an essential place in the religion and beliefs of the Irish. Here is the list of gods and goddesses worshipped in Irish Celtic mythology: Credne, Luchta, Goibniu, Morrigan.

The symbols of celtic mythology

celtic mythology symbols

Celtic mythology is rich in symbols and signs. Wild animals play an important role in its beliefs.

  • The bear and the boar are two symbols with contradictory meanings. On the one hand, the boar represents the priestly classes and on the other hand, the bear is the equivalent of the warriors. At the time, the two entities clashed from time to time.
  • The owl is the pet of the heroes. The latter believe in the night vision of this animal while hoping to bring it a luminous glow.
  • The bee symbolizes consolidation.
  • The eagle evokes the air.
  • The lark and the dog are considered messengers between man and the gods.
  • The doe is a mythological creature that symbolizes wisdom.
  • The ox is sacred in Celtic mythology as it symbolizes the god of peace.
  • The cat is said to be a guardian angel in Celtic belief because it is wary.
  • The horse symbolizes the protective goddess.
  • The rooster represents pride (and is by the way the traditional dish of the Celts)
  • The apple tree reflects the wisdom of Celtic mythology.
  • The Celtic amulet Triqueta is the emblem of strength, love and power.

The place of nature in celtic mythology


Nature is one of the most powerful deities among Indo-Europeans. This is one of the reasons why they celebrate naturalistic rites and cults directed to the earth, the sky, the stars, the forests and the mountains. The Celts also worship the sea and the various lakes. In Celtic mythology, nature is the emblem of strength.


belief celtic mythology

Celtic mythology is rich in historical and mythical characters. Prince Pwyll is a famous character in this mythology. He is also the apprentice and at the same time the Celtic goddess Ceridwen. King Arthur rules the other world. The Thuatha of Danann are a group of Celtic peoples who took refuge in Sidh or the other world after the invasion of Ireland, they are goddesses of Celtic mythology. Other famous characters that have marked the Celtic mythology are Vercingetox, Brennus and Ambiorix.


To conclude, Celtic myths are really different from others in terms of belief, symbolism and especially deity. Celtic mythology has particular ancestry compared to Norse mythology and Greco-Roman mythology. Its history is fascinating according to the works of famous writers.

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published

Mythology Encyclopedia

"The Essentials"

Golden Buddha StatueGolden Buddha Statue
Golden Buddha Statue
Sale priceFrom $27.90
Sleeping Angel StatueSleeping Angel Statue
Sleeping Angel Statue
Sale price$32.90
Happy Buddha Statue
Sale price$29.90

Our Favorites

Tout voir

Also Read:

See all

Jörmungandr: The Legendary Sea Snake of Norse

Mythologis Encyclopedia

70 Fantastic creatures from mythology

Mythologis Encyclopedia

Vampire, from mythology to popular culture

Mythologis Encyclopedia