My post on the Irish goddess Airmid provoked a discussion on whether the Tuatha de Danann were really deities, or just heroic individuals. The answer, of course, depends on who you ask.
The Irish god Lugh, we’re told, is one version of a pan-Celtic deity, called Llew in Wales and Lugos/Lugus in Gaul. Given that Lugh was such an important deity, and that Lugos could be the Celtic Mercury that Julius Caesar describes, you would expect Lugos to also be an important and well-attested god.
So it’s a bit of a shock to look up the Gaulish god Lugos/Lugos on the Epigraphik Datenbank and find no inscriptions matching his name. Why is Lugos so often assumed to be the Gaulish Mercury when there’s very little evidence for his worship in France?
The Irish god Ogma combines aspects of Mercury and Hercules – he is the inventor of the ogham writing system and an orator and poet, but he is also the champion of the deities, their official warrior.
The Irish god Nuada is known for three things: his magical sword, his sliver arm, and losing the kingship twice. HIs losses, however, define him in ways that show his quality.
It may seem strange that in Roman times the British god Nodens, famous for his healing shrine, was associated with Mars, a god more likely to do damage than to cure it. However, other Celtic “Mars” gods such as Lenus and Ocelus were healers, and not just to soldiers or men, but women and children.
Human rulers die, and the next generation takes over. Sometimes the older generation gets “helped” off the throne, either by assassination or war. So it’s not surprising that mythology has many versions of this succession story, which rarely involve peaceful inheritance.
Manannán is in many ways like a more benign version of Oðin. Like the Norse god, he is the patron of many heroes, is skilled in both battle and magic, moves easily between the worlds and has many lovers as well as a wife. On a more fantastic level, both have horses that can travel over land and sea, and a boar or pigs that renew themselves after being eaten.
He seems to have been one of the old gods, rather than the Tuatha de Danann. Unlike them, however, he seems to have made his peace with the new order, as he appears in their adventures. (He was close enough to them to be foster-father to the young god Lugh.) When the Milesians (humans) came, and the TDD went into the hollow hills, Manannán divided up the otherworld into parts for each.
The Irish goddess Brigit and the god Lugh have a great deal in common. Both have a triple form, both are powerful at every level of society, and both have a major calendar holiday associated with them. In the myths of the war between the two groups of gods, they have family on both sides.
These Greek, Nordic and Celtic gods may not seem to have much in common at first glance, but they resemble each other in several ways, all of which illuminate aspects of their characters. All three are intellectual, associated with the arts, and have magical or oracular powers in addition to an unforgiving nature.
Bricta is a complex goddess, whose name comes either from the same root as Brigit: “Highest”, or else from a Gaulish word for a spell or curse. Her cult centers on Luxeuil in France, which is rich in thermal and other springs. Several dedications to her, as well as many offerings, were found at the site of the Gallo-Roman thermal baths.