Exploring Celtic Gods, Goddesses and Mythology

By: Mitch Ryan  | 
While Dagda bears the nickname "good god," he was also said to wield a huge club that gave life with one end and took it with the other. Nicole Antonio/DALL-E

There was no singular overarching Celtic religion. As ancient Celts made their homes in widespread regions across Western Europe, they developed different Celtic gods and goddesses to fulfill their spiritual needs.

Many Celtic myths sprang from the Iron Age (beginning as early as 1200 B.C.E.), but Celtic culture spread from as far east as the modern-day Czech Republic to the western shores of the British Isles.


Stories of ancient Celtic gods and goddesses in these farthest western reaches provided poetic inspiration for Arthurian legend and folklore that has persevered through millennia. Many modern traditions and holidays actually trace their origins back to Celtic myth.

Who Were the Celtic People?

Celts were one of the most enigmatic cultural and linguistic groups in ancient history. Believed to have originated in the Balkan region, the first recorded encounters date back to Alexander the Great's campaign in 335 B.C.E. However, within the next century, these people would scatter to every corner of Europe.

Regardless of where these seminomadic hunting and farming communities settled, their religion was closely tied to nature and the changing seasons. They selected places aligning with seasonal solstices and other natural phenomena to worship patron Celtic gods and goddesses.


Not much is known about specific Celtic religious ceremonies. However, many anthropologists believe that Celtic people engaged in mystic rituals involving hallucinogens and votive offerings of both animal and human sacrifice.

Human sacrifice may seem extreme by today's standards, but the Celts were known to be a relatively fearless society. This made them formidable foes who often halted Roman conquest in the 4th century B.C.E. Celtic warriors would often charge armored Roman cavalry, wearing nothing but blue warpaint.


8 Important Celtic Deities

Since Celtic mythology was originally an oral tradition before Christian monks arrived to transcribe them, the exact details of Celtic gods and goddesses are continuously debated by modern historian and anthropologists.

Similar to Greek and Roman deities, the main Celtic gods and goddesses were members of a divine family. Father and mother goddesses in this Celtic pantheon oversaw aspects of nature and battled evil forces seeking to destroy humankind, while lesser Celtic deities played minor roles in legends.


1. Brigid

Nicole Antonio/DALL-E

The Celtic goddess Brigid is the daughter of Dagda and a powerful healer in Irish mythology. Many historians believe that when Christianity swept through Western Europe, the goddess Brigid evolved into St. Brigid, the patron saint of Ireland.

2. Cernunnos

Nicole Antonio/DALL-E

Cernunnos, depicted as the ram-headed serpent god or horned god, is arguably one of the most universal figures in the ancient Celtic world. Although this Celtic god's iconography with horned serpents and antlers was likely the inspiration for Christian depictions of Satan, he was good-natured.

Cernunnos is a primal deity who influenced plants, animals and fertility in most Celtic mythology belief systems.

3. Danu

Nicole Antonio/DALL-E

The Irish goddess Danu is believed to have been a simple water goddess or an alternative incarnation of the primary mother goddess of the Tuatha Dé Danann. Some historians even propose that the goddess Danu is the oldest of all the Celtic gods and goddesses, representing earth's primal spirit.

4. Dian Cecht

Dian Cecht
Dian Cecht.
Nicole Antonio/DALL-E

Like other Irish gods, Dian Cecht's role in ancient Irish mythology is still shrouded in mystery. However, based off translations of his name and his appearance in oral histories, he is believed to be a powerful healing god who brought injured warriors to the Wells of Sláinte.

These healing springs were believed to produce miraculous recoveries and the term "Sláinte" still means health today. Modern usage is typically reserved for the famous Irish drinking toast.

5. Epona

Nicole Antonio/DALL-E

This Celtic horse goddess appears in several legends among German tribes and small communities along the Danube river. The stem "epo" is actually the Celtic word for horse. Although other Celtic goddesses share connections to horses, Epona is the most clearly defined equestrian deity.

6. Eriu

Nicole Antonio/DALL-E

Eriu is the Irish goddess that would eventually become the namesake of the country we know today. In Irish mythology, she plays the role of divine feminine, along with her sisters Bamba and Fodla. These Celtic goddesses are sometimes described as a triple goddess, or three separate entities.

7. Lugh

Nicole Antonio/DALL-E

The Celtic god Lugh, or Lugh Lámfada (long-arm), was a skilled warrior poet who mastered several arts and crafts of ancient society. The god Lugh was also associated with the sun and it's revealing light, making him a good god for upholding law and justice among other gods and mortals alike.

8. Rhiannon

Nicole Antonio/DALL-E

Rhiannon is the Celtic deity of horses for the ancient Welsh. She is believed to have been another iteration of the Celtic goddess Epona from Irish mythology, or she was a distinct entity developed apart from Irish gods and goddesses.


A Brief Summary of Celtic Mythology

Celtic mythology varied by region, but it was always polytheistic (worship of more than one god). These many Celtic gods and goddesses specialized in specific aspects of nature and daily life instead of one god controlling everything.

Like Norse mythology, Celtic gods and goddesses played a more hands-on role than the "omnipotent father figure watching from above" trope that is so commonly seen in monotheistic religions. For example, the Tuatha Dé Danann from Irish tales were only part god and walked among mortals.


Character traits of the supernatural race known as the Tuatha Dé Danann would also evolve with time. For example, a mischievous horned god may be a malevolent healing god centuries later. For this reason, Irish mythology is typically broken into the following four cycles:

  • Mythological Cycle: The oldest cycle is a collection of stories that describe the adventures of pre-christian pagan gods and goddesses.
  • Ulster Cycle: This medieval collection focuses on the semi-historical tales of King Conchobar mac Nessa, ruler of the Ulaid, an ancient kingdom in Northern Ireland. The most important story of the bunch is the Cattle Raid of Cooley.
  • Fennian (or Fianna) Cycle: Finn mac Cumhaill and his famous warrior band, the Fianna, are the main characters in this collection of early Irish literature.
  • Kings Cycle: This final Celtic myth collection describes real people from ancient history, but their lives are exaggerated. Niall Noígíallach, Conn Cétchathach, and other previous kings of Ireland become legendary figures that toe the line between man and myth.


Who Were the Tuatha Dé Danann?

The Tuatha Dé Danann — also known by their older name or Tuath Dé — were immortal supernatural beings in Irish mythology who controlled the weather, natural elements, and soil fertility. Tuatha Dé Danann lived in the Otherworld, but would travel to the mortal world to influence the affairs of mortal men.


Who Is the Most Powerful Celtic God?

The Dagda was the leader of the most important Celtic gods and goddesses in the Tuatha Dé Danann tribe. Although this giant father figure bears the nickname "good god," he was a figure of duality. This notion is illustrated by his huge club that gave life with one end and took it with the other.

Dagda was a true jack of all trades, acting as the patron god of agriculture, craftsmanship, magic, wisdom and strength.


Who Is the Most Powerful Celtic Goddess?

The Morrigan, also known as the "divine queen" or "phantom queen," was the mother goddess of the Tuatha Dé Danann. This phantom queen was associated with war and destiny, especially when guiding legendary mortal characters toward quests of glory.

The Celtic goddess Morrigan is sometimes described as a triple goddess who was comprised of three sisters who shared common traits of other mother goddesses. However, some of these conflicting views could also stem from this Celtic mother goddess' shapeshifting abilities.