Theses  on  Celtic  Religion 10

difficulties in the state of the sources

our prejudicial denotations

animistic component

fairy tales and legends as legitimate sources

shamanism and druidism

the stratum of divinities


polarity Death / Mothers

changes in material existence

Mabon vab Genoveva

interface of Death and Mothers

isolated themes 

the realities of the world 




Certain themes cannot be classified among either Death or Mothers and to our eyes appear quite isolated. Some of them suggest being part of Indo-European mytholo­gies, others are shamanistic. Some may not be of mythological importance at all. Those themes are:

God of the animals

Several characteristics suggest the horned god (Cernunnos or Cervunnos) to be a god of ani­mals. He is adorned by horns or antlers, is surrounded by various animals, among them stag, bull and ram-headed snake. St. Kornély, his Christian namesake, is patron saint of the ani­mals, and in legends of Brittany, a hermit is master of all animals in the forest. In the tale of the "Countess of the Fountain", Kynon meets a "Lord of all animals".

This tradition opens the way to perceive here a shamanist hunting magic and the conjuring of sacred hunting game. Was a god or a lord of the animals still at Celtic eras involved into hunting magic?

Bad eye

This is a theme of Indo-European connections. In Celtic tradition it seems to lack any impor­tance, maybe even the ancient Celts did no longer understand its significance.

Balor's as well as Yspaddaden's eye is ill, opens only during a battle and must be kept open by artificial means in order to prevent war. King Cormack macArt lost an eye during an attack of Oengus, whose name makes the bridge over to Midir, who loses an eye by a hazel twig. Nuada's porter only has one eye (porter = druid, see below). The Badb is squint-eyed, a hint of being a druid or a mediating spirit.

Maybe the bad or lacking eye is an allegory for magic power and by this an allegory for druidism.

Bad arm

A bad arm is a sign of lacking power.

Apart from a certain Berthe in legend, it is mentioned only for Nuada, a notoriously power­less king. His silver arm is not a symbol of richness but of an artificial limb. The hand of the Irish hero Conall Cernach is devoured already in his mother's womb by a worm (snake?).


Arriving at Tara, Lug, even Lug, has to pass a verbal examination by the porter, in order to be admitted, Very similar are the procedures at Arthur's castle in the tale of "Culhwch and Olwen" and in a fairy tale about a certain Oengus.

A rite of entrance can be deduced from those examples, or a conjuration if we assume the porter to be a late, medieval code for druids.



The character of a swineherd is frequently met with.

Tristan, one of the three mighty swineherds of Britain, tended the pigs of March, son of Meir­chion. Pryderi son of Pwyll herded the pigs of Pendaran Dyfed at Emlyn. Koll, son of Kollvrewy, the third of the three mighty swineherds tended Henwen, the sow of Dallwaran Dalben. The bulls Donn of Cuailnge and Findbennach are the final station in a series of trans­formations which had begun as swineherds. "De chophur in da muccida" is an Irish tale where two swineherds are subject to a similar series of transformations.

Due to the lack of any indication it may be questioned whether the swineherds are mythic characters and not just a position in Celtic society. The mention of transfor­mations however is clearly mythic.


There are several indications of a mythic significance of the shoemaker which how­ever is entirely lost and inaccessible.

A pair of gods, called Lugoves (plural of Lug?) is called as well "collegium sutorum". Another pair are Gwydion and Lleu Law Gyffes (Lug?), who visit Arianrod disguised as shoemakers. In the Welsh Triads Lleu is one of the Three Golden Shoemakers. These seem to be three indications of Lug as a shoemaker, perhaps in association to the idea of anonymity. Anonymity is also an aspect of Cassivellaunos' going to Rome clad in a shoemaker's dress. Manawyddan is another one of the Three Golden Shoemakers. In the Mabinogion he is named a craftsman. Manawyda is the Welsh (British?) word for the awl. There are tales of Brittany where the awl is used to win in a lawsuit. Thus the shoemaker attains the aspect of a judge's function. The awl how­ever is also used to conjure death upon someone and that suggests the judge's func­tion to be that of a capital sentence.

The Irish Leprecaun assumes a shoemaker's appearance and watches over treas­ures. In a Breton fairy tale a princess has a shoemaker of her own.

Thus the frequent topos of shoemaker associates on one hand with incognito (magic? jour­ney? mysterious activities? messenger from the Otherworld?) but as well with judge and treasures.


Continue: the realities of the world