Celtic mythology

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Gaul god Sucellus
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"The Riders of the Sidhe" John Duncan 1911 McManus Galleries, Dundee
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Celtic mythology encompasses the myths, legends, and religious beliefs of the Celtic peoples. This mythology is predominantly found in the regions of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Isle of Man, and Brittany. Celtic mythology includes a rich pantheon of gods and goddesses, as well as a vast array of mythical creatures and heroic figures. The mythology has been preserved through oral tradition, as well as texts written by Christian monks during the medieval period.

Origins and Sources[edit | edit source]

The origins of Celtic mythology can be traced back to the Iron Age and even earlier. However, much of what is known today comes from texts written in the early medieval period. The primary sources of Celtic mythology are divided into two categories: the Irish and Welsh traditions. In Ireland, key sources include the Early Medieval manuscripts such as the Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of the Taking of Ireland), the Ulster Cycle, and the Fenian Cycle. In Wales, the principal sources are the Mabinogion, a collection of prose stories from medieval Welsh manuscripts, and various poems of the Welsh Triads.

Deities[edit | edit source]

Celtic mythology is polytheistic, featuring a pantheon of deities with various functions and attributes. Among the most prominent gods are The Dagda, known as the good god or the great father; Lugh, associated with skill, crafts, and the arts; and Morrígan, the goddess of fate, war, and sovereignty. Goddesses play a significant role in Celtic mythology, with figures such as Brigid, goddess of healing, fertility, and craftsmanship, and Danu, the mother goddess.

Mythical Creatures[edit | edit source]

Celtic mythology is also rich in mythical creatures, including the Aos Sí or fairy folk, who are considered to be the remnants of the pagan gods and nature spirits. Other creatures include the Cù Sìth, a fairy dog; the Selkie, seals that can shed their skin to become human; and the Banshee, a female spirit whose wail is believed to foretell the death of a family member.

Themes and Beliefs[edit | edit source]

Celtic mythology often explores themes of battle and heroism, the otherworld, and the cycle of life and death. The otherworld in Celtic mythology is not a single realm but a series of mystical islands and lands inhabited by gods, dead souls, and other beings. The concept of reincarnation and the immortality of the soul was a central belief in Celtic religion, influencing many of their myths and stories.

Impact and Legacy[edit | edit source]

The influence of Celtic mythology can be seen in modern literature, art, and culture. It has inspired numerous works of fantasy and fiction, including the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Celtic mythology continues to be a subject of interest and study, contributing to the understanding of ancient European cultures and their belief systems.

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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD