Celtic Gods and Goddesses: top 10 explained

Tales from Celtic folklore and mythology still play a huge part across the Emerald Isle to this day.

Celtic folklore and mythology have played an important role in shaping many European customs and beliefs we are familiar with today – particularly in Ireland. One of the main aspects of Irish folklore involves ancient Celtic gods and goddesses.

Much of Irish mythology is made up of ancient Celtic gods and goddesses. These stories were passed down through oral traditions that began in pre-Christian Gaul, Iberia, Britain, and Ireland.

Many ancient Celtic folk tales that had their roots in Ireland have luckily been preserved in medieval Irish literature. So thankfully, we can read about their marvellous stories to this day.

If you want to find out more about Celtic mythology, here are the top ten ancient Celtic gods and goddesses.

Ireland Before You Die’s top facts about Celtic Gods and Goddesses

  • The pantheon in Celtic times was polytheistic, meaning the Celtic people worshipped multiple gods and goddesses who governed different aspects of nature and life.
  • A lot of the Celtic gods and goddesses embody natural elements such as rivers, forests and mountains to represent the natural world.
  • Like a lot of Celtic culture, a lot of deities had triples aspects. For example, the Triple Goddess represented the maiden, mother and crone aspects.
  • Lugh was a prominent Celtic god associated with skills and crafts, while Danu was the mother goddess in Celtic mythology.
  • Brigid acted in Celtic mythology as the Goddess of Fire and Hearth, while Dagda was the father of the Gods, or the “Good God”.

10. Lugh – a warrior god

Lugh is one of the best-known ancient Celtic gods and goddesses.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

One of the well-known gods of the Celts was Lugh of the Long Arm. He was a courageous warrior god who sought revenge for the unjust death of his father.

His most infamous feat was his slaying of Balor – the one-eyed chief of the Formorii, adversaries to the Tuatha Dé Danann.

This victory is accredited with bringing the Tuatha Dé Danann’s ascendance as the dominant tribe of gods in Ireland.

9. Cailleach – the veiled One

Cailleach is one of the most popular Celtic gods.
Credit: commonswikimedia.org

Known as the Veiled One, or the Queen of Winter, number nine on our list of Celtic deities is Cailleach.

Having control of the weather and winds, Cailleach appears primarily as a veiled old woman who could leap across mountains and ride storms. Ageless and also immortal, she remains popular among poets to this day.

8. Aengus – the god of love

The son of Dagda, Aengus is one of the well-known gods of the Celts.
Credit: commonswikimedia.org

The son of Dagda, Aengus is one of the well-known gods of the Celts. He is also recognised as a youthful god of love.

Known for his poetry and music, which inspired Kings, charmed women, and also helped him win against his enemies, he symbolises craftiness and guile.

LEARN MORE on Celtic history with IB4UD’s article on Celtic symbols and meanings: top 10 explained

7. Medb – Queen of Connacht

Medb was one of the most powerful ancient Celtic gods and goddesses.
Credit: Flickr / William Murphy

Medb, or Maeve, was the Queen of Connacht and ruler of the west of Ireland in Celtic mythology.

A strong leader, she came to dominate much of the island and often found herself in conflict with the Ulster hero Cu Chulainn.

Taking many lovers, Medb demanded three things of all her suitors and husbands. These were that they harbour no fear, meanness, or jealousy towards her. She was known as the goddess of sovereignty.

MORE: Queen Maeve of Connaught: The story of this Irish Goddess of intoxication

6. Brigid – the Irish goddess of spring, fertility, and life

Brigid was the Irish goddess of spring, fertility, and life.
Credit: Flickr / Lawrence OP

Many in Ireland today still honour St Brigid’s Day. Celebrated from the evening of 1 February to the evening of 2 February, St Brigid’s Day marks the beginning of Spring or Imbolc.

Thus, Brigid is one of the most well-known Celtic deities in Ireland today. A master of healing and poetry, Brigid is recognised as the goddess of Spring, fertility, and life.

5. Morrigan – the goddess of death, discord, and war

The Morrigan is one of the most famous ancient Celtic gods and goddesses.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Morrigan, or the ‘Phantom Queen’, is recognised as a powerful female deity associated with both death and fate.

Stories portray the Morrigan as both a single entity and a divine trinity of sisters who could transform into screeching crows.

The Morrigan’s appearance often foreshadowed a soldier’s coming violent death. Thus, she has links to the Irish folklore tradition of the banshee.

4. Cu Chulainn – champion of Ulster

Cu Chulainn was a Celtic demigod who defended the Irish kingdom of Ulster.
Credit: Flickr / William Murphy

Cu Chulainn was a Celtic demigod who defended the Irish kingdom of Ulster against oncoming threats. Thus, making him one of Ireland’s most well-known folk heroes.

Many recognise him as a warrior who trained in Ireland and Scotland to become one of the most unmatched fighters of his time. Think of him as Ireland’s answer to Achilles!

3. Eriu/Eire – the goddess of Ireland

Next up on our list of ancient Celtic gods and goddesses is Eire.
Credit: commonswikimedia.org

We couldn’t make a list of ancient Celtic gods and goddesses without including Ireland’s very own namesake Eire.

Eire is symbolic of Tuatha Dé Danann’s legacy after the Milesian defeat as she and her two sisters went to greet the victors. In return, they offered to name a nation after her.

2. Danu – the mother goddess

Danu is known as the mother goddess.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Danu, the ‘mother goddess’, is one of the oldest ancient Celtic deities in Ireland. Divine mother of the Tuatha dé Danann tribe, stories associate Danu with nature and the spiritual essence of nature.

Many believe that all things in Ireland depended upon the blessings of this Celtic goddess.

1. Dagda – the good god

Dagda tops our list of ancient Celtic gods and goddesses.
Credit: commonswikimedia.org

Referred to as ‘the good god’, you may recognise the imagery of Dadga wielding a magic staff that could bring life or death.

So, many artists depict Dagda carrying a huge caldron that promised plenty or playing his enchanted harp that ordered the seasons.

Dagda is at the top of our list of ancient Celtic gods and goddesses. Considered the father of the Tuatha dé Danann, many associate this god of the Celts with fertility, agriculture, seasons, magic, life, and death.

Other notable mentions

Cernunnos was the Celtic deity widely worshipped as the "god of wild things".
Credit: commonswikimedia.org

Cernunnos: People widely regard Cernunnos as the “god of wild things’. He was often regarded as representing nature. Julius Caesar associated Cernunnos with the Roman Underworld god Dis Pater.

Fionn mac Cumhail: Fionn Mac Cumhail is also a hero in Irish mythology. He was the legendary Irish warrior and hunter who led the band of Irish warriors known as the Fianna and created the Giants Causeway.

Tuatha dé Dannan: Tuatha dé Dannan was a mythological race of supernatural gods and goddesses.

Arawn: With roots in Welsh mythology, Arawn is known in Celtic mythology as the god of death.

READ MORE: Arawn: the Celtic God of Death and the Underworld, explained

Your questions answered about ancient Celtic gods and goddesses

In Irish mythology, the Tuatha dé Dannan were a supernatural race of people who lived in Ireland.
Credit: commonswikimedia.org

Read our article and still have some questions? Then we have you covered! Below, we have outlined the most frequently asked questions about ancient Celtic Gods and Goddesses.

Who were the Tuatha dé Dannan?

In Irish mythology, the Tuatha dé Dannan were a supernatural race of people who lived in Ireland before our Irish ancestors of today ever arrived on the island. According to legend, ancestors of the supernatural race are still present in mythical forms today.

Who is the best known Celtic god or goddess?

There are so many gods and goddesses that are well known, but Dagda, Brigid, and Queen Mebh are perhaps the most well-known today.

What is ‘keening’?

‘Keening’ is the act of crying out loudly and shouting over the body of the deceased. It was a method used specifically by women to mourn the dead. Before Brigid’s keening song, it was deemed unacceptable behaviour in Ireland.

MORE IB4UD ARTICLES ON CELTIC HISTORY

Celtic knots: the history, variations and meaning

CELTIC REGIONS: where the Celts came from, explained

Top 4 annual CELTIC FESTIVALS you need to know about

Celtic Tree of Life (Crann Bethadh): meaning and history

The Celtic symbol for strength: everything you need to know

Find Your Dream Hotel in Ireland

On the hunt for the ultimate hotel for your Irish adventure? Explore a curated selection ranging from the charming heritage of boutique accommodations in Dublin's vibrant heart to the tranquil luxury of rural retreats and the captivating coastal vistas. Start your search below to find the perfect stay with our trusted hotel partner.



Get featured on Ireland Before You Die

Do you want to get your Irish business more online exposure? Especially to those interested in travelling the best places in Ireland? Then why not get a dedicated feature on Ireland Before You Die. Find out more here.

Related Posts

Disclosure

Ireland Before You Die is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Send this to a friend