Introducing the Celtic Goddesses

Today, the term ‘Celtic’ takes on a range of cultural, religious, and historical connotations. Celtic-inspired jewelry, for example, can be readily found, and the belief system of the Celts continues to inspire many modern spiritual practices.

But who, exactly, were the Celts? And what did they believe? Below we offer a whirlwind tour of the origins of the Celts, their belief systems, and why the Celtic goddesses remain an effective way to connect with your divine feminine energy.

Where and When Did the Celts Live?

The Celts were an Iron Age people who, over time, settled throughout central Europe, from Ireland to Turkey. Many modern historians now suggest that ‘Celtic’ refers to a culture rather than a specific, unified community.

Distribution of Celtic people across Europe

QuartierLatin1968, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hallstatt in Austria is widely regarded as the origin of Celtic culture. A burial site discovered at this location in 1846 contained the remains of over 2,000 individuals. Dating has revealed that the site was inhabited around 800 BC. Crucially, the items found there share similarities with other locations throughout Austria and other European countries. 

The nature of the artifacts and burial techniques discovered in these various sites, along with a shared language, suggest that Celtic culture, as we understand it today, primarily developed in these regions before spreading outwards across the rest of the continent.

Who were the Celtic goddesses

The Celts worshiped a panoply of gods and goddesses; these deities were an intrinsic part of Celtic daily life. Historians believe there may have been literally thousands of Celtic gods and goddesses. Some of these were likely to have been ‘overarching’ deities that were universally revered, while others could have held local importance.

The goddess Epona was worshiped throughout the Celtic world. Interestingly, she has links to many other female deities important in non-Celtic areas of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The Egyptian goddess Isis, for example, shares many similarities with Epona.

The natural world was also a profoundly important element of Celtic culture, and many of the deities reflect this. Epona, mentioned above, was a fertility goddess and the protector of horses and their riders. Flidais, a Celtic female goddess widely worshiped in Ireland, was connected to sexual energy, the domestic and natural spheres, and wild animals.

Some types of animals, too, were revered by the Celts as having special powers. Celtic culture held geese sacred and closely associated with the warrior spirit. The wolf, meanwhile, symbolized intuition and wisdom.

How Did the Celts Worship?

Celtic worship
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

As mentioned above, honoring their gods and goddesses was an in-built part of a Celt’s everyday life. This was mainly because the Celts believed their deities to have been their direct ancestors rather than totally separate entities. The protagonists featured in many Celtic stories from Ireland and Wales have magical abilities and live naturally alongside the people. This demonstrates how, in the Celtic world, the magical and the mundane were one. There was no line separating the sacred from the everyday.

Similarly, most of the Celtic deities demonstrated entirely human traits and, like their mortal counterparts, enjoyed feasting, hunting, art, and combat.

Where Celts Worshiped

Given the importance of the natural world to Celtic religion, it’s not surprising that Celts worshiped at sacred rivers, cliffs, lakes, and other special sites. Sacrifice was an important part of this culture’s religion (more on this below), and sacrifices of weapons were often made at places such as rivers, lakes, or bogs.

The sun, moon, and stars were especially important to the Celts. The moon was particularly revered, and lunar eclipses were strongly linked to fertility.

Lift a Rock, and You Will Find Me…

Rather than worshiping in a church or similar space, the Celts believed their gods and goddesses were all around them. For a Celt, every living thing – such as a plant or a flower – had a minor deity within it.

Part of the Celtic culture involved leaving small offerings throughout their locale for their major and minor gods and goddesses.

The Importance of Sacrifice

The Celts regularly practiced sacrifice to please their gods and goddesses. This commonly took the form of material objects, although animal and human sacrifices were also made.

The Druids

The druids were Celtic priests who played a vital role in Celtic society. They were so powerful that the Romans attempted to suppress their influence upon invading Britain – the mainstay of the druids.

Druids were responsible for their tribe’s religious ceremonies and acted as doctors, judges, and scholars.

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Waterfalls: Gateways to the Otherworld

The Celts believed in the Otherworld realm, where their gods and goddesses lived. Everyone would enter the Otherworld upon passing away, regardless of their actions in life.

For the Celts, small, natural waterfalls were important. These sites were viewed as having the potential to heal and being gateways to the Otherworld. To this end, gifts were often left for their deities at the site of a waterfall.

Natural waterways, in general, were held to be sacred. If a Celt suffered from an injury to their hand, they might carve a hand from wood and place it in a stream as a plea to the small god or goddess of this waterway to heal them.

The Celtic Goddesses

Most of the Celtic goddesses were subsumed or repressed over time by the Romans and various forms of organized religion. As such, much of the divine feminine energy embodied in these deities has been pushed down and maligned. Connecting with our innate dark feminine energy is a way to reclaim these lost powers, and achieve our full potential.

Celtic goddess
John Duncan (1866-1945), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Finding out more about the Celtic goddesses is an effective way to reconnect with this energy. As part of the process, we can identify the goddess (or goddesses) we carry within us and access their powerful, life-giving forces.

There are many Celtic goddesses, each with their own unique traits and abilities. Rhiannon, for example, is a Moon Goddess associated with fertility, rebirth, transformation, magic, and artistic inspiration. The Morrigan, meanwhile, is a goddess of battle and war linked to rightful kingship and sovereignty of the land. She regularly appears in the form of a crow or raven.

The divine feminine is about aligning all our feminine inner energies. Bringing together the ‘dark’ – associated with magic, intuition, and mystery – and the light is key. Just as with the varying faces of the Celtic goddesses, there is no single aspect of sacred feminine energy.

Top 10 Celtic Goddesses

While there are a great number of Celtic goddesses, these are some of the best-known and most interesting.

Creating a Modern Celtic Spiritual Practice

Adopting some Celtic religious practices into our daily lives can be a wonderful way to reconnect with our inner spirit and the natural world around us. While live sacrifice obviously has no place in our modern world, there are plenty of other ways to do this!

Dedicate an Altar

Once you’ve identified a goddess that resonates with you, why not create a small altar dedicated to her? This could be a shelf that you use just for this purpose or a side table in your bedroom. The intention is the most important thing.

Regularly leave little offerings to your goddess that are relevant to her and feel right to you. Brigid, for example, is associated with the arts (particularly poetry), prophecy, and divination. As such, your offerings could comprise a few lines of a favorite poem or a tarot card.

Mark the Celtic Holy Days

Consider ways to mark the traditional Celtic holy days that fall throughout the year. Lughnasadh (adopted and renamed Lammas by Christianity) is held in the Summer to celebrate the year’s first harvest. Traditional food consumed as part of the Lughnasadh festivities includes apples, grains, bread, and berries. Why not mark this Celtic holy day by creating a meal using these ingredients to share with loved ones? Carnelian is associated with Lughnasadh, so you could also keep this crystal close to you throughout the day.

The other Celtic holy days are Imbolc, Beltane, and Samhain.

Be Mindful of the Natural World

Finally, Land, Sea, and Sky were vitally important in Celtic culture. Create a modern Celtic spiritual practice by simply becoming more mindful of your surroundings. Slow down the pace and bring all your senses into play when you’re out on a walk- even if you’re just popping into the store. Notice smells of the wind or the feel of light rain on your hair and shoulders. Listen to the sound of fall leaves skittering along the street.

Much of developing a modern Celtic spiritual practice, and connecting with the Celtic goddesses, has mindfulness at its heart. Making time for sacred rest and reflection can help you connect with your inner voice and release your powers.

Other Goddesses

If you enjoyed this post we are sure you will enjoy getting to know some of the other goddesses we also write about. You can find the complete list of goddesses sorted across regions and religions here.

Featured Image Credit: Nationalmuseet, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Melanie Smith

Melanie Smith is a freelance content and creative writer from Gloucestershire. She lives in a funny little cottage with her daughter and cat, The Magical Mr. Bobo. Her blog posts and articles on the subjects of tarot, crystal healing, holistic wellness, and parenting feature regularly in magazines and websites around the world.