Celtic Mythology is the collection of mythological stories from the Celts of the Indo-European peoples of Europe and Anatolia. These myths contain many Gods and Goddesses due to the Celtic religions being polytheistic. Like many of the mythologies of this region they did not survive the Roman Empires push to control and conversion of Christianity. Most of the myths that were saved came from the Celtic regions around Ireland, Britain and Scotland which is what many folks associate Celtic Mythology with. Most of mythology around the world is shared by an oral tradition and with Celtic Mythology it actually was eventually written down by Christian scribes during the Middle Ages.
Mythology helps to teach through culturally specific stories that can penetrate our consciousness. Many of the stories describe deeply human experiences that teach us helpful lessons or to get us thinking differently about our lives. This mess or confusion is often met with heroic courage and wisdom which helps the listener have hope in dark times. They can be guidance in a time or place in our lives when we are unsure of how to handle something or what path to take. The way we can use these Celtic Symbols and stories now is to set intentions and awareness in our own lives to uphold the values and lessons in the stories.
A Look at Celtic Mythology
For this article we will focus more on Irish and Welsh Mythology as it’s the largest and oldest collection of mythology followed by Scottish. Some of these myths date as far back as pre-medieval times and often focus around gods and goddesses. Some of the most famous Irish myths you may have heard of: Dagda’s Harp, The Morrigan, Lugh, Brigid, and Ceridwen. Dagda’s Harp was known to change seasons by strumming his magical harp, make warriors forget their fear in battle and to heal from the wounds and sadness over loss. The Morrigan, one of the most prominent figures in Irish Mythology (called by various Goddess names) is the Goddess of war, who can predict the death of warriors in battle—often influencing the outcome of war. Lugh is the God of Sun and Light who represented justice, oath keeping and nobility and was both a savior and a trickster. Read on for more about Brigid and Ceridwen.
Today, many people use these myths to better understand their lives. They can help inspire hope, a better understanding of seasonal changes and harvests, and facilitate learning more about the region and culture. Many people in Europe look to Lugh during the summertime on the first of August for the beginning of harvest season. They give symbolic offerings to the Gods in hopes that the harvest will be plentiful. For more in-depth examples let me tell you the myth of Brigid the patroness saint of Ireland, Goddess of alchemical fire and representative of healing, poetry, and fertility and the story of Ceridwen the Goddess or witch of Wisdom, Inspiration, and Transformation.
Brigid - The Healer of Fire and Water
Brigid is one of the most popular Saints in Ireland who was daughter of Dagda and The Morrigan. The day to honor Brigid and celebrate is on February 1st which is called Imbolc. Brigid was said to have been fed by the Magical Otherworldly Cow. This Cow has been able to navigate between this world and the "otherworld" Or mystical heaven like realm because of the magical garden in Kildare. It was said all animals and beings in this garden were also able to access the realm beyond and that she was born with a crown of fire as the sun rose over the horizon. This flame gave her the ignition of knowledge, passion, and abilities to heal. In Kildare there was a Sacred Healing Well and a Sacred Flame which was tended to and kept safe by her and 19 of her disciples. This flame as well as Brigid herself was able to ignite the same passion and fearlessness into warriors as was in herself. Two sick lepers also showed up in Kildare and upon her request, drank water out of her well and instantly became healed.
This juxtaposition of the Fire and Water puts into context Brigid's ability to be both fierce and gently loving. This helps us also look to the nuanced and various ways that we can access our own healing. Do we ignite our intellectual fire by gaining more knowledge so we can heal? Do we make fierce decisions and put up necessary boundaries so we can prioritize our healing? Or do can we be inspired by water and find more flow in our lives? Let down our walls and allow ourselves to open up to our own vulnerabilities? Or find opportunities to connect? Or maybe the best advice of all: How can we allow fire, fierceness, and passion to be present right alongside our vulnerability, sadness, and receptivity?
Use Brigid when you are in a space of deep healing. Light a candle for her and remember that even if you are in need of healing, you are still strong, worthy, and vibrant!
Ceridwen and The Tale of Taliesin
Ceridwen was thought to be the representation of inspiring yourself to shift and transform through self-knowledge and practice. Often considered a witch, she would create potions in her infamous cauldron to help heal, change, and inspire. Many poets look to her to be encouraged to continue with their craft as she is the representation of the feeling of inspiration. She is the spark that cures the writer’s block and the passion that comes when you release fear. The most infamous story of Ceridwen is the “Tale of Taliesin.”
In this tale you meet Ceridwen, her husband the giant Tegid Foel, her beautiful daughter Crearwy, and her apparent hideous and “unfortunate” son Morfran. In this specific story Ceridwen works over and over to find a potion that will transform her son into a beautiful and intelligent person. To do this she had to create a potion that must be diligently stirred for one year and one day. This potion was only effective for the first three drops and after this would become poison. Because of this she gave her servant boy Giwon the job of stirring the potion. Giwon stirred the pot every day until one day he became bored and accidentally spilled the potion right onto his skin. He then transformed into a very good looking and wise person with the ability to shapeshift. Ceridwen, angered at the servant boy began to chase him. He then turned himself into a rabbit, while Ceridwen turned into a dog. Giwon then turned into a fish and jumped in the river and Ceridwen into an otter to catch up. Giwon then jumped out of the water and turned into a bird and Ceridwen shifted into a hawk. Scared, Giwon turned into a grain of corn and Ceridwen turned into a hen and ate the boy. Ceridwen unknowingly then became pregnant and gave birth to Giwon again. Ceridwen planned on killing Giwon but thought he was too beautiful, so she put him in a leather bag and threw him into the river. Eventually he was found by the fishers in Dover River and was said to be transformed into the great poet of Taliesin. As soon as Taliesin saw sunlight he would start speaking and recite beautiful poetry that prophesied how those who found him would defeat all enemies. Taliesin was a very popular poet in Irish history.
There are many symbols in this story and obviously some personal lessons you can derive from it. The cauldron can represent the capacity to make your own creative transformation by finding your own recipe. The drops from her cauldron not only represent inspiration but they also represent the ability to transform oneself into the vision you choose. Like with any myth this presents us with the question of who do we want to be? Of course, it can go many ways. Do we do things for the sake of something that is not genuine or to better our lives? Either way this teaches us we are capable of transforming as long as we put our hearts and knowledge into it. I also personally look to this myth to think about what I need to change about myself. Did Morfran really need to be transformed? Was Ceridwen and others judgmental? This for me makes me consider why I chose to change who I am or question when others suggest I change.
Applying Celtic Mythology to Your Life
Use these myths to support yourself when you are in times of transition, change, and healing, so they can help invite the energy you seek. Try bringing symbols alive in your life like the ones in the myths. Creating altars, honoring Ceridwen or Brigid, and creating your own rituals can help. Even trying to slowly and diligently create something new like Ceridwen did with her potions can help get the creative juices flowing. What’s most important is to find the unique ways these stories resonate and share your perspectives with others creating further inspiration and dialogue around these ancient and beautiful stories.
And for even more Celtic Lore, check out the Psychic Source Celtic Zodiac Calculator to discover which Celtic signs guide your life and luck!