Neo-Pagan Wiccan and Druidic religions are derived from the ancient Celtic Pagan polytheist culture (1300 BC – 400 AD). The word Celt translates “chisel” or “ax” from the Latin word celte, and refers to an ethno-linguistic region comprised of several European tribal nations. Originally the Greeks and Romans got the name Celt from a specific tribe in Gaul (France). The main Celtic name for themselves seems to be Gal (“strong” or “fierce”) with derivations: Gall, Gaul, Gali, and Gael. The main Celtic nations were Gaul (France), England (Brittani & Cornwall), Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and Spain (Iberian Galicia). The basic Celtic periods can be divided into Bronze Age Urnfields (1300-700 BC), Iron Age Hallstatt (700-500 BC), Iron Age La Tene (500-0 BC), Gaelic Last Stand (0-400 AD).
Celts were commoners, slaves, nobles (equites), priests (druids), oracles (vates), and musicians (bards). Druids, bards, and vates were the three priestly classes. Secular Celtic society varied throughout their decentralized tribal civilization. Celtic priests emphasized an oral tradition, and forbid their doctrines and stories to be written down; perhaps to have exclusive control over the religious rights, much as we use copyright laws today. Druids were exclusive secretive authorities on cultural superstition, ritual knowledge, and political magic. Bards were story-tellers, singers, and musicians. Vates were prophetic seer shamans, or oracles. These priestly orders may have survived from a Neolithic or Bronze Age Indo-European religion of the Horned-God of Animals; which included wheels, spirals, torcs, deer, ram-horned snakes, and other animals as sacred symbols even into the Iron Age. Various Greco-Roman accounts refer to Druidic human sacrifice, magical practices with flora and fauna, belief in reincarnation, and that they were respected as authorities by Celtic secular society. Oaks seem to be their most sacred trees (followed by ash and yew), and perhaps wrens were their most sacred birds; because the word druid is related to roots which mean “magic-oak-wren-seer”.
The Greeks and Romans considered Celts to be simply barbarians, a term which lumped them together with germanic and other tribal cultures that were deemed uncivilized savage foreigners. It was also said that most barbarians were immoral mindless hordes, that will invade and destroy unless they are invaded and destroyed, or enslaved.
Thus Roman and Christian Empires invaded and destroyed most of ancient Celtic culture by war and assimilation. The only source scriptures we have are Greek, Roman, and later Christian literature for any linguistic detail concerning ancient Celtic religion. For obvious reasons these sources are biased towards the conqueror’s own beliefs. However in the New Age, Neo-Paganism resurrects the ancient religion, with the contemporary tradition of witch-craft (wicca), which is the rural underground vestiges of the ancient Celtic beliefs, evolved in family secret legacies and in assimilated spiritual superstitions for hundreds of years, despite numerous witch lynchings and burnings by Christian literalists.
Celts and Druids did not seem to have unified religious doctrines amongst the tribes, as to who the main gods were, or how the gods could be represented; as the Celts were not an empire in the centralized way that Greece and Rome were. Rather than temples, the priests seem to have preferred forest groves, so the emphasis was on regional environmental powers and wildlife (genius loci), more than detailed personifications. Yet the bards must have sung of heroes, and because they were not recorded (as the Homeric poems were) the closest we have are the later Christian Irish and Welsh selected writings. It was claimed that Druids forbid writing, but they did use some alphabets and codes like Ogham and Runes. It seems that if there were any other Pagan writings the Church did away with them. The dominant mythical stories of Celtic England, France, Scotland, and Spain may have been lost over the generations, although their oral and bardic styles remain a secular tradition.
The Celts were animists, believing that all aspects of the natural world contained spirits. Celts communed with these spirits, and spirits were capable of reincarnation. Hundreds of Celtic deities and heroes were reduced to faerie spirits over time, and then futher diminished in size to tiny faeries, by the Renaissance. Although it is possible that small faeries always existed within Celtic Religion; even just as small animals. Also many animals continue to live in the ground, as our ancestors did, or dead people do, and birds fly like spirits in the air and mess about unseen. These are reasons that faeries exist.
The absence of a Celtic creation myth means either they never had one, or we have lost it. It is most likely the Celtic creation myth was lost on purpose by the Roman-Catholic Church, as it would have been seen as threatening to Catholic Genesis dogma. The Irish Christian story began with the settling of Ireland by several invasions. Celtic deities should be considered in a tribal clan context, due to their lack of specialization, as compared to Greek or Roman deities.
In Ireland, first were the Fomorians. Then came the Partholonians, who achieved architecture and landscaping, but were killed by plague. The next wave was the Nemedians, and they defeated the Fomorians. Then Fir Bolgs from Greece came, and civilized Ireland by dividing it into five provinces, and made laws. Next the Tuatha arrived and defeated Balor. Finally the Spanish Iberian Milesians came and defeated the Tuatha. The Milesians gave the Tuatha the land below ground and the Milesians the land above. Tuatha De Danann means “People of the Deity Danann” who came over water and went under hills.
Irish Scot Gaelic Deities
Danann / Danu – mother goddess
Dagda – father god, good with all
Morrigan – Nemhain, Macha, Badb (Triple Goddess)
Brigit – maiden fire
Lugh – light (Apollo or Mercury)
Goib – earth, craft
Oran Mór, “The Great Melody”
Crom Cruach Dubh – head bloody black crooked one of sacrificial stone mounds
Ogma – wise words, writing (ogham), and strength
Triple God of Skill = Dagda, Lugh, Ogma
Cú Chulainn – hero son of Lugh (Irish hero)
Fin MacCool – hero son of Cú Chulainn, (Irish hero)
Gallic Gaul, Briton, and Welsh Deities
Arawn Ankou – king of the dead otherworld realm of Annwn
Bran & Branwen – raven gods
Belenus – sun fire god of Beltane and cattle
Cocidius, a god of war
Condatis, a god of the confluences of rivers
Cernunnos – horned (Carnonos) nature virility (Hern) wild animals, green man
Ceridwen – (Carugwen) mother goddess of love, magic, change, transformation
Epona Rhiannon – horses
Nantosuelta Erecura – goddess of nature, earth, fire, and fertility in Gaul
Taranis – god of thunder and wheels (chariot or wagon)
Teutates = great tribal spirit, or leader of the people (Teuta), hundreds of deities
Sucellos – “kindly good striker” god of agriculture, forests, drinks, mallets
Damona Damara – a river fertility goddess
Coventina, goddess of wells and springs
Neo-Pagan Celtic Wiccan Deities
Kernunos – Triple God = Lugh, Dagda, Arawn / Ankou
Morrigan – Triple Goddess = Brigit, Ceridwen, Crone / Macha
Mathonwy – Merlin = druid god of magic, math, alchemy, science
Nantosuelta Damona Damara = Mother Earth, animals, plants
* Empedocles primary deity list (Harpers Faery way)
There is a connection between the old Celtic Horned-God Carnonos / (C or H)ernunnos, and with Dis-Pater. Wealth is represented by the torcs, which are both collars of control and value; stewardship over a livestock herd was wealth. Wealth, wildlife, and herds all connect Hermes-Pan with Carnonos. The horns and some underworld aspects link Dis-Pater and Pluto to Carn, but Pluto may have been Dagda as well… under-ground. Gaelic Hernunnos (Hern) and Gallic Carnonos. cairns or herms (Hermes-Pan), human – (Proto-Germanic) hurnan – horn-man (German)- hern-mon-os (latin hermanos “brother”) humanus (homo) (Persian Sanskrit) sur = horn, Berton kern = horn, herds