Celtic gods

Viewing 11 posts - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
  • Author
  • #15138

    Hi everyone,
    I’ve just started the bardic path alongside a complementary programme of independent study. I’m currently reading John Michael Greer’s the Celtic Golden Dawn. Here, he mentions four divine names for invocation. I’m struggling to find information about two of them – I know about Elen of the Ways and Esus. No idea about Heu’c or Sulw. They might be references to the Mabinogion? Any ideas?

    HEU’C – EAST – AIR


      Hello Richard, and welcome. I hope you find the path of the bard inspiring and rewarding, I certainly did. Some of the answers to your questions will also be found in the Bardic Course materials as you progress, however, I have some ‘answers’ for you, too.

      The Golden Dawn traditions are based on late 19th century Western Esotericism: Hermetic and Qabalistic currents that developed out of Renaissance, Judaeo-Christian, Neo-Platonic, Gnostic and Classical (Greek and Roman) ideas based on a Masonic framework. They certainly are traditions with a fine pedigree, but, in spite of the Welsh names, all that ‘Celtic’, at least in my opinion, they are not.


        Moving on …


          Hu Gadarn is largely a pseudo-historical fiction created by our old acquaintance Iolo Morganwg, you won’t find anything in then ‘authentic’ Celtic historical records about Hu the Mighty, I’m afraid.


            As for Celtic ‘gods’ – volumes could be written, we don’t know so much about what pre-Romanised Celtic divinities and belief patterns might have been, even though echoes and themes may well be found in later literature and, of course, the archaeological record. There does seem to be a modern tendency to make every single figure of these literatures into a ‘god (of)’ or ‘goddess (of)’, sometimes even in contrast with that literature itself. Some of the figures we know from the respective literatures do indeed seem to be linked, at least in name, to names/epithets we know from archaeology and the historical record, but going back further, it becomes more difficult.

            My own take on things, and I don’t claim to have the last word by any means, is that druid beliefs were animistic, druid ideas about divinity were completely different to Roman and Greek ideas. I don’t believe there ever was a ‘Celtic pantheon’, I think there were localised, tribal cults, with some common themes and archetypes, and numerous local interpretations. To offer one example, Taranis may not have been the ‘god of thunder’, rather Taranis was thunder, and from an animistic point of view all things have spirit or soul, consciousness and awareness, something that is maybe lost on a modern ‘Western’ mindset forged in the ideas of the Classical World and Judaeo-Christian thought. Again, in my opinion only, in order to get to the real ‘mysteries’ if you like, my advice would be to look at the world and read the tales from an animist’s point of view, go into the folklore traditions of these isles, the old ‘Fairy Faiths’ of Britain, Brittany, and Ireland, and the great treasury of often-ignored folk wisdom and lore out there.

            If you look in the Bookshelf thread in this forum, there are some short reviews and recommendations by members of the BDO on various works, which you may find interesting and helpful.

            Anyway, Richard, welcome once again, and I hope my answer has been of some help.


            PS: Sorry about the staggered response, I had actually written a longer response but sometimes the forum doesn’t allow posts or just appears to be in a bad mood 😀


            Thanks Dowgri for your incredibly full and generous response.

            A lot of what you say resonates with me, particularly the stuff on animism. This is the way that I am starting to understand druidry too. That said, I am interested also in the discipline of daily Golden Dawn style ceremonial magic. I was attracted to Greer’s adaptation of the Golden Dawn because it rejected the Judeo-Christian imagery of those rituals. However, I can’t identify a lot of the symbolism which he is using instead. At times, the Welsh invocations also seem to be untranslatable.
            Anyway, I am trying to develop my own version of the Lesser Banishing / Summoning Ritual of the Pentagram which I can practice daily alongside my druidic meditation and bardic research. I think I will abandon Greer’s divine names, and replace them with my own. These are really just personifications which help me focus on the specificic energies of the elements, in the way you describe Taranis.

            In fact, I have decided to invoke Taranis at the start of this ritual, at the Eastern quadrant, symbolising Air. Then, Brigit – Goddess of fire in the South; Manannan, representing Water in the West, and Elen, representing Earth, in the North. These are arbitrary, in a sense, but also chosen because they have at least a spurious connection to druidry. Mainly, these help me think through the life energy of the natural world which hopefully I can channel at some point. Suggestions or corrections about my chosen deities are welcome though!

            The fact that you mentioned Taranis is pure synchronicity!



            One more thing, I tried to find the bookshelf forum but I couldn’t find it? Probably my oversight, but I did find a useful thread on meditation which has some really helpful advice. Can you point me towards the bookshelf thread?


              Hello again Richard,

              I’m glad I was able to be of some assistance. As for your choices, well, they are yours to make. Each person finds their own path through the forest …

              The Bookshelf thread should appear further down on the main Bardic Forum page. I’ll post the link to it here, though.




                PS: Why not explore your own sacred landscape around you – land, sky, and sea, or rivers and lakes? I think that way one is better able to tune in. Local lore and legend might always help. For example, Cornwall is rich in the lore of giants, piskies, the other folk, sacred springs and rivers, the Tamar is ‘Tamara’ of legend, and then, of course, there is Arthurian legend. If, on the other hand, you find yourself in Norfolk, you might want to connect to the local energies there and so perhaps the Cornish ‘ways’ might not resonate as much, if you follow me …

                Wherever you are, if the awen begins to flow, I’m sure you’ll know. I think these are the best ways to learn at times.


                  Hi Richard (and others of course),

                  I came across this, I thought it may be of interest.

                  Temair II
                  Lines 49 – 60 (p.11) – see reference below.

                  Erlam Camsóin, ní clethe,
                  Etherún, ba herchrede
                  is slúag na nglas-derc nglethe
                  úad fri tassec trén-Tephe.

                  Ec trúag Tephe tánic túaid,
                  nír gním clethe fri hóen-úair,
                  Camsón ro léic luing cen lúaig
                  lé dar tuind sáili sóeb-úair.

                  Roscart bár Bretan ó’n brúch,
                  ar ba hetal Etherún,
                  co marblaig fria mess ‘sin múr
                  tess forstarblaig Tephi-rún.

                  The tutelar of Camson, not hidden,
                  Etherún (he was transitory),
                  and the host of the clear grey eyes
                  were sent by him as a pledge for the restitution of mighty Tephi.

                  The sad death of Tephi who came to the north,
                  was a deed not concealed for a moment;
                  Camson launched a vessel without payment
                  with her over the surface of the cold and treacherous sea.

                  The chief of Britain sent them from the shore,
                  (for Etherún was pure;)
                  with the lifeless body to do it honour in the rampart
                  in the south, on which settled the name Tephirun.

                  The Metrical Dindsenchas, Part I. Text, Translation, And Commentary
                  By Edward Gwynn, M.A. Royal Irish Academy (1903)


                    I’ve come across various scholarly notes and commentary that all suggest Etherún, the chief idol/god of the Britons, is none other than Taranis, which is far from implausible. So, according to whoever the original Irish scribe was, the implications is that Etherún/Taranis was the most venerated by the ancient Britons.

                    It should be noted that this poem exists in different versions and may have been subject to scribal errors, interpolations and so on, nevertheless, it’s still an interesting little bit of extra information.


                  Viewing 11 posts - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
                  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.