Chapter 26








NAME         Bear

EPITHET      The Brown Animal

SYMBOL OF    power / resurrection

STAR GROUP   Aries (bear) / Ursa Major (big bear) / Ursa

             Minor (little bear) / Arcturus (bear)

ASSOCIATED   honey / mead

SEE ALSO     Art / Arthur / Artio / Math

REMARKS      The bear was a mean adversary against a hunter

  armed only with a spear or bow, but its fur had many uses

  and its meat contained a great amount of fat to mix with

  fruit and berries and acorn meal to help ward off vitamin

  deficiencies in winter.

       The bear was a great fan of honey, from which the

  Celts made their sacred drink of mead.  Bears also have a

  taste for salmon, another sacred food.  The moon goddess

  Artio was associated with the bear and numerous Celtic

  characters were named after the animal including Art,

  Arthur and Math.

       Because the bear hibernates in winter it has a

  supernatural element dealing with resurrection.  Many stone

  sculptures of the animal have been found in Spain, Portugal

  and Ireland.  The constellation Aries was known to the

  Celts as the bear, and today there are the constellations

  Ursa Major (big bear) and Ursa Minor (little bear).  The

  old North Star was called Arcturus which also means bear.



NAME         Bee

EPITHET      The builder

ALTERNATIVE  Beach (Irish) / Gwenynen (Welsh)

SYMBOL OF    resurrection / reincarnation / fertility


SEE ALSO     Artio / Creide / Uroica

REMARKS      The honey bee is a stinging insect with 4 wings

  and 6 legs.  Their society is divided into 3 casts; the

  queen (fertile female), drones (fertile males) and the

  workers (sterile females).  Because they have a highly

  developed parental instinct, they store masses of honey for

  their undeveloped offspring in larval state who then

  reincarnated into a bee.

       An important event in the life of the bee colony is

  the nuptial flight of the queen followed by the drones. She

  flys straight up where she mates with the strongest drone,

  the weaker are then eliminated by the workers.  This social

  style was imitated by the Amazons, and Celtic women also

  chose the best males to mate with.

       Another important event of the bee is the swarm.  This

  happens when the hive becomes too crowded.  A queen

  followed by up to 30,000 bees will leave the old hive

  behind and fly in a swarm until they find a new place to

  settle.  The Celts used the swarm idea when their territory

  became overcrowded.

       Fermented honey, beeswax or honeycomb and water made

  mead, the oldest form of fermented liquor.  Because the

  bees hibernated in winter they were a symbol of

  resurrection.  They were also beneficial in the

  fertilization of flowers.  The goddesses Artio and Uroica

  and the druid Creide were all associated with bees.

       Beeswax was also important in the making of candles

  and essential in the casting method called the lost wax

  process which was used in making bronze weapons and tools

  or ornaments of bronze, silver or gold.



NAME         Boar

EPITHET      The Wild, Savage Beast

ALTERNATIVE  Torc (Irish) / sow (fully grown female)

SYMBOL OF    war / ferocity / fertility

ASSOCIATED   moon goddess / warriors

SEE ALSO     Aine na gClair / Amhairghin / Arduinna / Baco /

             Cerridwen / Danu / Mac Cecht / Manannan / Moccos

             / Pryderi

REMARKS      The wild boar is a fast powerfully-built animal

  with razor-sharp tusks and an ability to eat almost

  anything.  They are easily aggravated and are known for

  their fierce fast zig-zag attacks.  They are one of the

  cloven-hoofed animals with a short-legged heavy body

  covered with a tough bristly hide and a long mobile snout.

  The wild boar lived in a unit called a sounder which is

  like an extended family or clan.

       The boar was revered by the Celts, and was considered

  the royal beast of the Danann.   They provided a sacred

  food, and Manannan had magical boars that could be eaten

  one day and were ready to eat again the next.  Hunting the

  boar was a sacred act accomplished with a spear.  In Bronze

  Age Ireland, the sacrifice of the boar was a sovereign

  right of Danu.  Boar hides were also used for armor and


       Boars were associated with the Otherworld and fed on

  the sacred acorn of the oak tree, as well as on beech nuts.

  Because their fur came in the colors red, white and black

  they were also associated with the moon goddess.  The boars

  were prolific breeders and a symbol of fertility.  The

  deities Arduinna, Moccos and Baco were all associated with

  boars in Gaul.  In a Welsh tale, Pryderi chased a white

  boar with red ears into a fortress that disappeared.  He

  was also killed over magical pigs which were given to his

  father.  As a magical animal, the boar was known for its

  healing powers.  Under Brehon law, the domesticated sow had

  three equal divisions: one part for her body, one part for

  her anticipated value and one part for her litter.

       Warriors were associated with these animals and the

  words Torc and Triath both mean "chieftain" (hero) and

  "boar".  A boar fire also meant a chieftain fire, and Mac

  Cecht lit one on a Samhain.  Druids were sometimes called


       Many Celtic stories make reference to warriors being

  turned into boars, and one on Ben Bulben was described as

  being a gray-cropped white boar with no tail or ears. Twrch

  Trwyth was a ferocious boar and leader of a sounder that

  caused destruction throughout Ireland.  When the Goidel

  conquered Ireland, Amhairghin recited a poem which

  contained a line stating that he was the wild boar of


       Attesting to their popularity are the great number of

  artifacts depicting the boar found throughout the Celtic

  world.  They appear as decorations on coins, swords,

  shields, helmets, and as sculptures in stone, wood and

  bronze.  There are three Irish words for pig: muc, orc and

  torc.  Northwestern Spain and northern Portugal have

  numerous full-size stone sculptures, and Pictish

  pictographs in Scotland often have the image of the boar.



NAME         Bull

EPITHET      To Swell

ALTERNATIVE  Tarbh (Irish) / Tarw (Welsh)

SYMBOL OF    virility / ferocity / waxing

STAR GROUP   Taurus (bull)

ASSOCIATED   sun god

SEE ALSO     Belenos / Esus

REMARKS      The Celtic zodiac at one time began in Taurus

  which initiated the waxing half of the year.  Belenos was

  the sun god of that part of the year.  The war god Esus was

  also associated with the bull.  Druids sacrificed white

  bulls to the sun god and performed the bull feast as an

  important divining tool.

       The vicious war of the Cualnge Cattle Raid was over a

  majestic bull and the war ended with a battle between two

  supernatural bulls.  The ox, on the other hand, was a

  castrated bull and was a docile animal of great strength

  (dumb ox) used to haul wagons, skids of logs or rocks.  The

  steer was a young castrated male and was raised as a beef


       The bull was a symbol of male fertility and strength

  and was a familiar motif in the art of the Celts.  Stone

  sculptures have been found in northwestern Spain and

  northern Portugal, and their images have been found on

  cauldrons, coins, sword scabbards, and Pictish stone

  pictographs.  Stone votive offerings depicting bulls were

  reclaimed from the harbor of Burghead in Scotland.



NAME         Cat

EPITHET      The Stalker

ALTERNATIVE  Catt (Gaelic) / Tom (M)

SYMBOL OF    stealth / waning powers / hunter

STAR GROUP   Leo (lion) / Lynx

ASSOCIATED   moon goddess / sun god

SEE ALSO     Lugh / Cat

REMARKS      The cat is probably best known for its ability

  to climb and leap great heights and for its incredible

  sense of balance.  All cats except the cheetah have the

  ability to retract their claws completely.  They also have

  very keen night vision and the female is an especially

  notable solitary hunter.  A blind cat had special

  supernatural association.

       The cat in Celtic mythology was often associated with

  the Otherworld and was an animal sacred to the moon

  goddess.  Red, white and black cats were of special

  interest.  The ancient Silures tribe of Wales venerated the

  the wildcat and in a cave at Clough in Connacht there was a

  chair of silver with a slender black cat relaxing on it.

  The Pictish founder of Caithness in Scotland was named Cat,

  and the Clanna Stewart of Scotland had the cat as its

  totem.  The cat totem ruled the waning half of the Celtic


       The lynx, which was a common cat in Europe during the

  time of the Celts, had a heavy body, tufted ears, heavy

  side whiskers and green-gold eyes.  They were night hunters

  and preferred to spend their days resting in a cool cave or

  other lair.  The totem of the Danann hero Lugh was a lynx.

       In Celtic mythology there was an island called

  Lyonesse off the coast of Cornwall which sank beneath the

  sea.  Lynx is also the name of a constellation between the

  Great Bear and Cancer.



NAME         Cow

ALTERNATIVE  Bo (Gaelic) / Buwch (Welsh)

SYMBOL OF    fertility / wealth

ASSOCIATED   earth goddess

SEE ALSO     Boann / Bress / Brighid / Caibre / Cian / Cu

             Chulainn / Damona / Ethne / Morrighan /

REMARKS      All domestic cattle were originally bred from

  the Ur-cow (Aurochs).  They were huge reddish-colored

  animals that roamed the forest of Europe in the wild state.

  The last one died in a Polish zoo in AD 1627.

       Cattle were important animals in the mythology of the

  Celtic people; the cow was a symbol of the earth goddess

  and the bull was associated with the sun god.  Cattle with

  white hair and red ears were a definite sign of the

  Otherworld.  Gray was also an Otherworld color for cows and

  both Cian and the Fianna had supernatural cows whose names

  referred to gray.

       The fire goddess Brighid was weaned on the milk of a

  white cow with red ears, Boann was referred to as Boann of

  the White Cows and the handmaiden Ethne survived entirely

  on milk from a magic cow.  The Morrighan appeared to Cu

  Chulainn as a red cow with 3 teats.

       When Cairbre Caithcheann (Cathead), a person of a

  service clan, took the position as high chieftain of

  Ireland by force, the goddess of Ireland showed her

  displeasure by making the udders of all the cows in Ireland

  go dry.

       Cattle were used as an exchange value, cows' milk was

  the favorite non-alcholic drink of the Celts and cheese was

  a major food staple.  Cow hides were used to cover their

  coracle and for the making of clothing.

       The bride price for a noble maiden was 21 cows.  The

  noble cow was displayed on Pictish stones in Scotland.  The

  Danann Bress tried to trade the secret of cows with

  continuous milk for his freedom.  Celtic society was

  inseparable from cattle herding.



NAME         Crane

EPITHET      The Talkative / The Chattering

SYMBOL OF    curative powers / patience / augury /


STAR GROUP   Grus (crane)

ASSOCIATED   moon goddess / willow trees / water / maze dance

SEE ALSO     Esus / Manannan / Midhir

REMARKS      The crane is a primitive but beautiful bird

  which stands on long stilted legs.  It has a powerful neck,

  large wings and a long bill.  Although it is not a water

  bird, it spends much of its life with its feet in the water

  catching fish.

       The Numidian and Balearic Cranes have black and white

  feathers with red skin showing through: colors sacred to

  the moon goddess.  Cranes arranged their catch in a format

  that resembles the spokes of a wheel.  They place the tails

  of the fish on top of each other with the heads pointing

  out in a fan.  When they fly back to the nest they clamp

  the tails in their beaks and the weight of the fish is

  evenly distributed.  Wheels were symbols of the cyclic

  movement of the sun, moon and zodiac.  The constellation

  Grus was named for the crane.

       The Celts sacrificed wild cranes to the moon goddess.

  The god Esus was associated with cranes, and Manannan and

  the Fianna both carried their treasure in a crane bag.

  Mythology also mentions a number of stories where women

  were changed into cranes.

       The Celts performed a sacred dance called the Crane

  Dance (Spiral Castle).  The dance (9 steps then a leap) was

  performed in a unilateral spiral maze through which the

  dead were carried on their way to the Otherworld.  The maze

  dance was called Troy Town in England, Caer-Droia in Wales

  and New Grange in Ireland was referred to as the Spiral


       The crane had a dark side and it was forbidden to eat

  its flesh.  Midhir had 3 cranes who scared unwanted people

  from his fortress by screaming out: "Pass By! Keep Away! Do

  Not Enter!".  A Celtic helmet has been found with crane

  decorations on its ear flaps.



NAME         Deer

EPITHET      The breathing, Living Creature

ALTERNATIVE  doe (F) / buck or stag (M) / Os (Gaelic)

SYMBOL OF    graceful / fleet / timid

ASSOCIATED   shape-changing / rebirth

SEE ALSO     Flidais / Gilfaethwy / Sadb

REMARKS      The deer is an even-toed hoofed mammal and,

  except for the reindeer, only the males have antlers which

  they drop every spring.  The reindeer are also the only

  ones of the species to have been domesticated.  The deer is

  adaptable to nearly all types of terrain except deserts. It

  is a very graceful animal and is noted for its visible

  breath in the form of steam.

       To the Celts, the deer was an animal of the hunt and

  venison was one of their main sources of food.  The hide

  was very useful and the soft doeskin was particularly


       In Celtic mythology the deer was the animal most often

  used to associate females with the wild.  Many women were

  changed into deer by wizards and sorcerers.  Sadb gave

  birth to a human boy, then was changed into a deer and

  raised him.  The nature goddess Flidhas drew her chariot

  with deer.  As punishment for raping his cousin, Gilfaethwy

  was turned into a doe so he could bear a fawn sired by his

  brother who had been turned into a stag.



NAME         Dog

SYMBOL OF    death / health / protection

STAR GROUP   Canis Major (large dog) / Canis Minor (small

             dog) / Canes Venatici (hounds) / Sirius

             (dog star) / Procyon (lesser dog star)

ASSOCIATED   sun god / moon goddess / hunter-gods / healing /

             underworld / eyesight

SEE ALSO     Annwn / Belenos / Celtchair / Cerridwen / Cu

             Chulainn / Cunobel / CuRoi / Mac Da Tho /

             Taranis / Tuireann

REMARKS      The wolf was the first European animal to be

  domesticated by the Paleolithic hunter around BC 10,000.

  Through the millenia, the dog began to develop as a species

  with different shaped heads and round eyes.

       Dogs were admired for their keen senses of sight,

  smell and hearing.  Their primary functions became those of

  guard and hunter's helper.  Through the ages, the hound

  became important in the hunting of deer.

       Most dogs have 5 claws on the front feet and four on

  the back, associating them with both the moon and the sun

  deities.  The hound was associated with the Underworld and

  Arawn used a pack of hounds to hunt the souls of the dead.

       Dog saliva has long been thought to contain curative

  powers.  Dogs were sacrificed to sun gods at curative sites

  such as pits, wells and for the foundations of buildings.

  Blind dogs had a supernatural association and many

  goddesses were associated with lapdogs.

       Numerous warriors were associated with dogs.  Cu

  Chulainn was named for a smith's wolf-hound and given the

  job of guarding the cattle of Ulster.  Celtchair died when

  splattered by the blood of the dog Doelchu, and poisoned

  dog blood was used to cover the blades of weapons.  The

  hound Ailbe who belonged to Mac Da Tho was the excuse for

  the battle between warriors of Connacht and Ulster.

       Many stories revolve around people being changed into

  dogs.  Tuireann was changed into a bitch and gave birth to

  her sons in the form of hounds.  Cerridwen changed herself

  into a hound to catch a hare.  There were also the hounds

  of Belenos and the hero Cunobel was called the hound of

  Belenos.  The hounds of Taranis stole the sacrifices left

  to other gods.  Several constellations and stars have been

  named in association with the dog.



NAME         Dolphin

STAR GROUP   Delphinus (dolphin)

ASSOCIATED   sea goddess / underwater worlds

SEE ALSO     Nehalennia

REMARKS      Dolphins are salt water mammals who live in

  herds.  They are recognizable by their distinctly-shaped

  snouts, bulbous foreheads and large visible eyes.  The

  dolphin's skin is black on the back with white belly and

  grayish-yellow striped flanks.

       The constellation Delphinus is named after the

  dolphin.  The sea goddess Nehalennia was associated with

  the dolphin and the inner plate of the Gundestrup cauldron

  with Cernunnos depicts a dolphin.  The dolphin was also an

  image used by the Picts on their stone pictographs.



NAME         Dragon

EPITHET      The Sharp-Sighted One

ALTERNATIVE  Dragun (Irish) / Driag (Welsh)

SYMBOL OF    sun / moon

STAR GROUP   Draco (dragon)

ASSOCIATED   champion warriors

SEE ALSO     Caer / Creddylad / Fedelm / Fingin / Lludd /

             Medbh / Prydain / Uther

REMARKS      The etymology of dragon makes so many references

  to sight (to see, make distinct, bright, clear, discern,

  look at etc.) that it stongly suggests a person who has

  attained a level of perception and understanding far beyond

  the norm.  This would indicate people within the druidic

  category or someone who has had special training such as a

  champion warrior.

       The red dragon was the guardian of the intellect (sun

  cycle) and the white dragon was the guardian of the

  emotions (moon cycle).  Because they danced to different

  beats they would have a yearly conflict, but only settled

  their differences every 19 years.

       When the Britons conquered England, Prydain put an end

  to the Dragon Tyranny (state of continuous warfare).  Lludd

  had a problem with two dragons that fought every year, then

  changed into wild boars as they tired.  The filidh Fedelm

  prophesied for Medbh that her troops would be colored

  crimson and held at bay by a dragon in his youth.  Uther's

  epithet Pendragon meant "dragon head", a reference to the

  spring equinox.  The dragon's tail is a reference to the

  autumn equinox.  Dragon head and tail are terms used to

  denote the ascending and descending nodes of the moon and


       Fingin the druid was described as having the sharp

  sight of the dragon.  The fertility goddess Creddylad was

  fought over by two dragons every year.  The filidh Caer

  lived on the lake of the dragon while she was in the form

  of a swan for half the year.  The star constellation Draco

  was named for the dragon and one of its stars, Alpha

  Draconis (Thulban), was once the pole star.



NAME         Duck

EPITHET      The Diving Bird


SYMBOL OF    fertility / death / reincarnatiion


REMARKS      The duck is a broad-beaked, web-footed, short-

  legged water bird.  They are easily domesticated and were

  symbols of fertility.

       There is a small Celtic sculpture of a duck carrying a

  human head on its back.  A votive sun chariot with 3 wheels

  (4 spokes each) carries a god with a bird head and has 3

  ducks positioned in a way which implies that it is being

  hauled or led by them.  Another small ritual wagon carrying

  a funeral urn has 2 ducks at each end, with the pairs

  pointing in opposite directions.  A cauldron has tiny

  sculptures of ducks affixed to the rim, suggesting

  reincarnation, and a belt was found with ducks and sun

  symbols alternating.  Most Celtic associations with ducks

  seem to imply a connection with death and the Otherworld.



NAME         Eagle

ALTERNATIVE  Iolar (Gaelic) / Eryr (Welsh)

SYMBOL OF    reincarnation

STAR GROUP   Aquila (eagle)

ASSOCIATED   sun god / sky god

SEE ALSO     Culhwch / Gwrhyr / Llew / Mabon

REMARKS      Eagles are the largest members of the hawk

  family.  They have strong hooked beaks with sharp cutting

  edges.  They are birds of prey and totally carnivorous,

  eating animals from hares to young fawns, as well as fish.

  They tend to make their nests in remote and inaccessible


       Celtic images of eagles have shown up on the crests of

  helmets, on coins and as tiny figures on a cauldron flesh

  hook.  One cauldron has mounts in the shape of bulls with

  eagles perched on their head.  In Scotland, the Picts used

  the eagle on many of their pictographs.

       The mythology of the Celts has associated the eagle

  with shapechanging and the zodiac.  In the Welsh story of

  Culhwch, Gwrhyr the interpreter questions the eagle as to

  the whereabouts of Mabon.  In an Irish story, Llew changes

  into an eagle in an attempt to escape his predicament.



NAME         Fox


SYMBOL OF    cunning / intelligence

STAR GROUP   Vulpecula (little fox)

ASSOCIATED   moon goddess

REMARKS      Foxes are small, slim animals with elliptical

  pupils and bushy tails.  Their fur colors include red,

  silver and black, associating them with the moon goddess.

       Foxes are nocturnal hunters, feeding on small animals,

  birds, fruit and insects.  In winter they often steal the

  burrows of badgers and rabbits but in the summer they sleep

  out in the open.  In April the mature vixen gives birth to

  4 or 5 young, forming a family called a skulk.

       The body of a sacrificed druid found in a bog in

  England was wearing an armband of fox fur which Dr. Ross

  suggests may have been his totem animal.  The constellation

  Vulpecula means little fox.



NAME         Goat

EPITHET      The Leaper

ALTERNATIVE  Geit (F) / billy (M) / kid (young) / Gabhar

             (Gaelic) / Gafr (Welsh)

SYMBOL OF    fertility / virility / sure-footedness

STAR GROUP   Capricorn (goat horn)

SEE ALSO     Cernunnos

REMARKS      The goat is a cloven-hoofed grazing animal with

  long hair and rectangular pupils.  Both sexes are bearded,

  have hollow horns on the tops of their heads and are known

  for their head-butting.  The billygoat has a strong odor.

  The meat of the male kid and the milk and cheese of the

  females were a source of food for the Celts.

       The Aryan root "ghaid" means to leap or spring,

  reflecting a typical behavior of the animal.  The goat horn

  was the symbol for the constellation Capricorn in the

  zodiac.  In mythology, Cernunnos was shown with the legs of

  a goat.  Goat hair was important for weaving, and goat

  hides made the best skins for shaman drums.



NAME         Goose

ALTERNATIVE  gander (M) / gosling (young) / geese [pl]

SYMBOL OF    fertility / combat / augury / Otherworld

ASSOCIATED   sun god / moon goddess / warriors / guards /


SEE ALSO     Dianos / Cu Chulainn / Lugaid / Ocelos

REMARKS      The goose is a heavy water bird, larger than a

  duck and smaller than a swan.  The bird has a long snake-

  like neck, hisses when irritated and will give a vicious

  bite when threatened.  The wild birds breed in the north.

  Geese were domesticated very early and their feather and

  down were collected for their warmth.  Because of its

  territorial nature and aggressive behavior, the gander

  makes an excellent guard.

       In Celtic mythology, the birds are sacred to the moon

  goddess and are also associated with the sun gods such as

  Ocelos.  A votive offering from Roquepertuse shows geese

  pulling a sun chariot.  A sculpture of a goose sat on the

  central column of the entrance of the sanctuary at

  Roquepertuse and another sat between the heads of the god

  Dianos on the sculpture from the same site.

       The goose was also thought to guard against disease,

  and although it was normally taboo to eat, it was a special

  food at Samhain.  As Cu Chulainn offered to serve goose to

  his friend Lugaid, it must have been at the time of

  Samhain.  Pictographs of the goose are found in the

  Scottish Highlands on the Pictish stones.



NAME         Hare

EPITHET      The Gray Animal

SYMBOL OF    fertility / combat / augury / swiftness

STAR GROUP   Lepus (hare)

ASSOCIATED   moon goddess (Great Mother)

SEE ALSO     Boudicca / Cocidos / Froech / Gwion

REMARKS      The hare is a very fast large rodent with long

  ears, divided upper lip,  short tail, large feet and

  powerful hind quarters.  The fur is usually gray but some

  have a reddish-brown color.  Hares live in the open and can

  remain perfectly still even when its pursuer is almost on

  top of it.  During the March mating season, hares become

  frenzied or eccentric and the males battle each other.

       The hares were considered a sacred animal and were

  taboo to eat among the Celts.  They were a symbol of

  fertility and were associated with the Great Mother, as

  well as with the war/nature god Cocidos.  Boudicca used a

  hare to augur the outcome of her upcoming battles.  Gwion

  turned himself into a hare to avoid detection, and Froech

  captured 7 hares on his way to Raith Cruachain.  The

  constellation Lepus was named for the hare.



NAME         Heron

ALTERNATIVE  Egret (white heron)

ASSOCIATED   sun god / bull / willow / water

SEE ALSO     Esus

REMARKS      The heron is a large wading bird with a long

  neck, long straight beak, long legs and a long tail.  The

  bird's back feathers are usually black and white.  They

  prefer to nest in tree-tops.

       The wild egret eats the parasites from the back of

  cattle.  Esus, a god of death and war, was shown in

  association with 3 egrets or cranes.



NAME         Horse

EPITHET      The Runner

ALTERNATIVE  Mare (F) / steed or stallion (M) / Echo (Irish)

             / March (Welsh)

SYMBOL OF    fertility / virility

STAR GROUP   Pegasus (winged horse) / Equuleus (colt)

ASSOCIATED   moon goddess / sun god

SEE ALSO     Abarta / Arawn / Atepomaros / Epona / Etain /

             Ferghus / Figol / Lugh / Mabon / Macha /

             Manannan / Medbh / Morrighan / Niamh / Oisin /

             Pwyll  / Red Riders / Rhiannon / Rudiobos

REMARKS      The horse is a single-hoofed animal, a powerful

  runner and relatively easy to domesticate.  Through the

  ages, the horse was used to ride and to pull wagons or

  chariots.  Mankind has a long record of symbolized and real

  mating with horses, mares representing the moon goddess and

  studs representing the sun god.  Etain, Rhiannon, Medbh and

  Macha all represented the mare goddess, and Epona was the

  Divine Mare, protector of the species.

       In Ireland, the high chieftain was ritually mated with

  a horse and the success of the tribe depended on the

  success of that relationship.  Many men had epithets such

  as Eochaidh, meaning stud, having mated with the mares

  (women) who had the epithet of sovereignty.  Ferghus mac

  Roig had such a large penis that he was called The Great


       A horse or horses also hauled the chariot of the sun

  god across the sky.  The sun god Atepomaros had horses

  sacrificed to him and the war god Rudiobos had a sculpture

  of a man-horse dedicated to him.  The sun god Lugh claimed

  to be the first person to use a horse in Ireland but at the

  same time the filidh Figol told Lugh he would bind the

  urine of the Fomorii warriors and their horses with his


       Red horses were associated with death and the

  Otherworld, such as those ridden by the Red Riders of the

  Sidhe.  The war goddess Morrighan rode a chariot that was

  pulled by a red horse with one leg.

       Gray horses were also associated with the Otherworld.

  A filidh named Abarta had a supernatural horse that carried

  16 warriors across water, and Arawn from the Land of the

  Dead also rode a gray horse.  Herne the Hunter rode a black

  horned horse, probably indicating that it wore a head

  shield with horns, similar to some which have been found.

       Niamh rode a white steed that carried her and Oisin

  across water.  Rhiannon rode a supernatural white mare when

  she was trying to attract the attention of Pwyll, and Mabon

  rode a horse called White Brown-mane during the chase of

  the great boar.  Manannan also had two white horses that

  drew his chariot across the crested waves.

       Horses were prized by warriors as animals of combat,

  and some were trained to fight in order to help their

  masters.  Horses were high on the lists of gifts that noble

  gave each other, and were often decorated in gold, bronze

  and precious stones.  Horse remains have been found in

  chariot burials and their images were engraved on vessels,

  coins and the earth itself, such as at Uffington.

       Many warriors were born at the same time as their

  horses and they became bonded with them.  The great female

  horse warriors, the Amazons, sacrificed horses to a deity.

  The Picts left pictographs of horses in Scotland and the

  ancients named star groups Pegasus (winged horse) and

  Equuleus (colt).



NAME         Moose


SYMBOL OF    strength / power

STAR GROUP   Taurus (bull)

SEE ALSO     Garbh

REMARKS      The moose is the largest member of the deer

  family and can weigh over 1000 lbs (500 kg).  Moose have

  broad antlers and their tough hide was used for leather.

  They feed on the young shoots and leaves of willow and

  birch as well as on moss and lichens.  They keep to the

  more secluded parts of the forest and in the summer prefer

  the swampy areas.

       The Celts hunted moose for their meat but during the

  rutting season the males were extremely dangerous.  The

  Welsh giant Garbh used moose to haul her chariot.



NAME         Otter

EPITHET      The Water Animal

ALTERNATIVE  water dog

SYMBOL OF    playfulness

SEE ALSO     Cu Chulainn / Froech

REMARKS      The otter, an aquatic mammal, has thick dark

  brown fur, webbed feet and a long somewhat flattened tail.

  It is a carnivorous water animal and lives in burrows in

  river banks and salt water lagoons.  Otters like to eat

  fresh and salt water fish and shellfish, and often lay on

  their backs while they eat, holding their food in their

  paws.  They particularly enjoy salmon.

       Froech caught 7 water dogs on his way to woo

  Finnabair.  It was prophesized that Cu Chulainn would see a

  dog lap up his blood just before he died.  The prophecy was

  fulfilled by an otter (water dog).



NAME         Owl

EPITHET      The howler

ALTERNATIVE  Owlet (young) / Blodeuwedd (Welsh)

SYMBOL OF    intelligence / stealth

ASSOCIATED   moon goddess / night time

SEE ALSO     Blodeuedd / Gwrhyr / Mabon

REMARKS      The owl family are nocturnal birds of prey with

  large heads and big eyes.  They are known for their silent

  flight, sharp night vision and quick dives and hard hits as

  they grasp their prey in strong talons.

       Blodeuedd (flower-face/owl) was turned into an owl as

  punishment for her treachery against her husband so that

  she would never enjoy the sun again.  Gwrhyr the

  interpreter questioned the Owl of Cwm Cawlwyp on the

  whereabouts of Mabon.  Images of owls have appeared on

  coins, jewelry, cauldrons and other Celtic artifacts.



NAME         Raven

EPITHET      The Croaker / Messenger of the Gods

ALTERNATIVE  Bran (Welsh) / Fiach (Irish)

SYMBOL OF    prophecy / messengers

STAR GROUP   Corvus (raven)

ASSOCIATED   magic / shape-changing / battle / death / curing

             eye disease

SEE ALSO     Badbh / Bran / Culhwch / Gwrhyr / Lugh / Mabon /

             Macha / Morrighan

REMARKS      The raven is the largest bird of the crow

  family.  The omnivorous bird has a large, strong black

  bill, glossy purple-black feathers, black legs and piercing

  black eyes with steel-gray lids.

       Ravens pair for life and tend to use the same nest

  every year, building it in remote rocky regions.  The

  mating rituals of the raven involve dramatic aerial

  displays with power dives that cause their feathers to beat

  like drums.

       The ravens are the largest of the songbirds and will

  mimic numerous animal sounds, including human speech.  They

  are very talkative birds and carry on conversations with

  each other even when they are long distances apart.  It is

  these qualities that have earned the bird the epithet of

  Messenger of the Gods.

       As scavengers, the ravens were associated with battle

  scenes and became linked to the goddesses of war such as

  Macha, Morrighan and Badbh Catha, associating them with the

  Raven's Croak (to foresee evil).  Lugh and Bran were two

  war leaders who had ravens in attendance.  The bird was

  also associated with sorcery and shapechanging.  In the

  story of Culhwch, Gwrhyr the Interpreter interviewed the

  raven in his search for Mabon.  The champion charioteer

  Laeg wore a cape of raven feathers, personifying the image

  of death to his enemies.



NAME         Salmon

EPITHET      The Leaping Fish

ALTERNATIVE  Bradan (Irish) / Eog (Welsh)

SYMBOL OF    wisdom / knowledge / insperation

ASSOCIATED   hazel nuts

SEE ALSO     Cerridwen / Gwion / Finn / Cu Roi / Culhwch

REMARKS      The salmon is a large fish of 4-5 ft (1.5 m)

  which is born in fresh water and only after more than a

  year swims downsteam and into the saltwater of the ocean.

       After several years in salt water, the salmon then

  begins its return to its birth-place to spawn.  Returning

  to its spawning areas often involves leaping up rapids and

  falls, and never eating until it reaches salt water again.

  The Salmon Leap was a feat performed by champion warriors

  such as Scathach and Cu Chulainn.

       The salmon is a blue-silver color when mature, with

  pale red or pink flesh of firm texture.  The fish is a food

  source for bears, eagles and Celts.

       In Celtic mythology Fintan the salmon was the oldest

  of living things and, having fed on the nuts of knowledge,

  had attained supernatural wisdom.  Fionn ate the salmon

  Fintan who had escaped from Segais Well when it overflowed

  1500 years earlier and thus obtained supernatural knowledge

  himself.  Salmon is an excellent source of selenium,

  recommended for optimizing cerebral functions.

       In the Welsh story of Culhwch, Gwr questioned the

  salmon of Llyn Llyw in relation to the whereabouts of

  Mabon.  The Celtic warrior CuRoi kept his soul in the body

  of a salmon and when Tuan mac Starn was reincarnated as a

  salmon he was eaten by a woman then born as a human.  The

  Picts of the highlands of Scotland left many stone

  pictographs of salmon.



NAME         Sheep

SYMBOL OF    meekness

STAR GROUP   Aries (ram or bear)


REMARKS      Sheep are grazing animals with hollow horns on

  the sides of their head, known for their wool or fleece. In

  ancient times the natural territory of the sheep was

  restricted to small areas east of the Mediterranean, as

  opposed to the wide European distribution of the boar and


       Varieties of wild sheep were available in Celtic times

  and the wool was plucked from its fleece rather than shorn.

  However, the popularity of the domesticated sheep in Celtic

  territories came only with the Christians as they replaced

  the cattle and the goat with their eastern Mediterranean

  religious symbol of the sheep.  They associated the image

  of the goat with the devil (evil).

       Aries was the Ram in the Greek zodiac, but was

  represented by a bear in the Celtic.  There is little

  literary or visual reference to the sheep or ram in Celtic

  mythology.  The skeletons of sheep and goats are extremely

  difficult to tell apart, and most bones found by

  researchers are tagged as sheep, an animal they are

  familiar with.



NAME         Snake

EPITHET      The Slitherer

ALTERNATIVE  Serpent / Nathair (Irish) / Neidr (Welsh)

SYMBOL OF    healing / fertility / wisdom / regeneration

STAR GROUP   Serpens (snake) / Ophiuchus (Serpent Holder)

ASSOCIATED   healer goddess / moon goddess / earth goddess /

             water goddess

SEE ALSO     Cernnunos

REMARKS      Snakes hear by low vibrations (100-700 Hz)

  transmitted from the ground to their bones and skulls. They

  have excellent eyesight with no movable lids, and taste the

  air with their tongues.  The snake has small overlapping

  scales on top and broad plates underneath.  The male has a

  multiple penis and the female lays a large number of eggs

  that are self-sufficient from the time they hatch.

       The serpent was a totem of an ancient seafaring race.

  The symbolism of the snake (dragons and serpents) was that

  of wisdom.  The 3-, 5-, 7- and 9-headed snakes are totem

  symbols of the ancient Aryan peoples which spread

  throughout Europe and Asia by the roving tribes.  The snake

  was the symbol for the invisible force that linked the

  spiritual world to the physical, called Nwywre by the


       Snakes were also associated with the moon goddess and

  fertility.  The Crane Dance was performed in a unilateral

  spiral maze which represented the path of the snake (The

  Great Mother) as it coils and uncoils.  Sometimes there was

  an altar with a horned snake which represented male

  fertility.  Cernunnos held a horned snake (male) in his

  hand and was accompanied by a snake (female).  Most healing

  deities such as Abilus, Damona and the water goddess Sirona

  were also associated with snakes.

       When Conall Cernacht was in the process of attacking a

  Pictish fortress, the serpent that was protecting the fort

  jumped into his pouch until the battle was over, then

  circled his waist and left him.  When the warrior Mechi was

  killed, it was discovered that he had 3 hearts with a baby

  snake in each.  The harper sons of Boan had the images of

  snakes, dogs and birds on their harps, showing their powers

  to heal with music.

       Many torcs have snake heads for terminals, and the

  image of the snake is common in the Pictish stone

  pictographs.  Two constellations refer to snakes: Serpens

  (snake) and Ophiuchus (Serpent Holder).



NAME         Stag

ALTERNATIVE  buck / Poc (Irish) / Bwch (Welsh)

SYMBOL OF    speed / fleet / majestic / aggressive

ASSOCIATED   shape changing / rebirth

SEE ALSO     Cernunnos

REMARKS      The stag (a male deer after its 5th year) is the

  lord of the forest and the most majestic of woodland

  creatures.  He seems almost telepathic in his ability to

  escape during the hunt.  Great attention was paid to his

  racks which are the measurement of his age and virility. In

  the fall when the new antlers shed their velvet, the

  rutting season begins.  Stags fight for the privilege of

  herding the does for themselves, and science has shown that

  the fighting increases their sperm count and guarantees

  that only the best can reproduce.  Celtic society imitated

  this ritual.

       The Celts loved to hunt deer, singularly or with dogs.

  Pictographs in Val Camonica in Italy even show hunters

  using nets and stockades.  Fionn and the Fianna were the

  hunters for the high chieftain in Ireland.  In Celtic

  mythology, many warriors were changed into or born as


       A chariot burial in the Marne region of France

  revealed a stag in the trapping and harness usually

  associated with horses.  Mythology mentions a number of

  goddesses who used antlered animals to haul their wagons,

  and the Amazons were also known to ride antlered animals.

       Cernunnos wore antlers on his head and was shown with

  a stag at his right hand.  He was master of the forest or a

  shaman of a hunting society.  Cu Chulainn captured a wild

  stag, showing mastery over wild animals, and his charioteer

  Laeg wore a stag-hide tunic.  Gwrhyr the interpreter

  questioned the Stag of Rhedynfre as to the whereabouts of

  Mabon.  The Picts of the Scottish Highlands used the image

  of the stag in their pictographs.



NAME         Swan

EPITHET      The Singer

ALTERNATIVE  Alarch (Welsh) / Eala (Irish)

SYMBOL OF    diligence

STAR GROUP   Cygnus (swan)

ASSOCIATED   love / shape changing / death

SEE ALSO     Anghus / Caer / Cu Chulainn / Derbhorill / Etain

             / Lir / Midhir

REMARKS      The swan is a very large water bird with an

  extraordinarily long neck, short legs with webbed feet, a

  featherless face and snow-white feathers.  The birds mate

  for life and make a reed nest lined with down where they

  lay 5-10 eggs which are called cygnets when they hatch.

       To the Celts, the swans were divine creatures

  associated with love, shapechanging and the moon goddess.

  The birds were thought to sing their most beautiful song

  just prior to their own death.

       The Fomorii love goddess Derbhorill changed herself

  and her maidens into swans to follow Cu Chulainn because he

  had saved her life and she had fallen in love with him.

  When Caer agreed to go with the love god Anghus, they

  changed into swans.  When Midhir and Etain fell in love,

  they also changed into swans and flew away.

       The children of Lir were changed into swans for 900

  years.  Cygnus (swan) was the name given to a constellation

  and in Galicia the Celts built coracles in the form of

  swans, called Swan Boats.



NAME         Whale

STAR GROUP   Cetus (whale)

SEE ALSO     Daire / Fruich

REMARKS      The whale is the largest living air-breathing

  mammal.  It has no neck, no external ears, a nostril on top

  of its head, large tail fin and a large mouth.

       In Celtic mythology the supernatural swineherd Fruich

  reincarnated as a whale, and the warrior Daire was

  swallowed by a whale.  There is a constellation known as

  Cetus (whale).



NAME         Wolf

EPITHET      The Loper

ALTERNATIVE  cub (young) / Mactire (Irish) / Blaidd (Welsh)

SYMBOL OF    lycanthropy / survival / loyality / family

STAR GROUP   Lupus (wolf)

ASSOCIATED   moon-goddess / oak-god / shamans / hunters

SEE ALSO     Cernunnos / Cerridwen / Cormac MacAirt / Cu

             Chulainn / Mac Cecht / Morrighan / Vosegos

REMARKS      The wolf is the wild member of the dog family.

  It is carnivorous and has a keen senses of sight, smell and

  hearing.  It has a strong jaw, slanted eyes and can weigh

  around 90 lb (40 kg) and stand about 30 in (80 cm) at the

  shoulders.  The wolf has a fur color range from black

  through gray and red to white.

       In the summer the wolf is more of a lone hunter but

  when the cold weather sets in it forms into a family unit

  called a pack.  The wolves are gregarious animals and not

  overly agressive, so they must chase their prey or nip at

  each other to get themselves into a frenzy in order to

  attack a larger animal.

       In Celtic mythology they were associated with the moon

  goddess and shapechangers.  The Morrighan attacked Cu

  Chulainn in the shape of a red-furred wolf.  The nature god

  Vosegos wore a wolf-pelt cape, and Cernunnos was also

  associated with the wolf.  Cormac macAirt was raised by

  wolves and Mac Cecht had to fight off a wolf who was

  scavaging the battlefield.  The Pictish highlanders used

  the wolf image on a number of pictographs, and the

  constellation Lupus was named after the wolf.



NAME         Wryneck

ASSOCIATED   moongoddess / willow tree / snakes

SEE ALSO     Conall Cernacht

REMARKS      The Wryneck is a bird of the woodpecker family

  named for its snakelike neck which it uses to dig out ants

  from trees.  It is gray-colored with brown markings on top

  and cream-colored with brown markings on the belly.

       The wryneck hisses like a snake and in the spring it

  builds its nest in a willow tree where it lays pure white

  eggs.  It was considered sacred to the moon goddess. Conall

  Cernacht was named for his wry-neck.