Celtic Myths And Legends
Celtic Myths And LegendsBy James And Barnaby
OverviewPrior to Roman or Christian influence the Celts preferred to pass on their sacred teachings and myths orally. After the coming of Christianity in the fifth century onwards, the monks recorded the myths. It is thanks to them that so many survive today.
DeitiesSome of the myths have been Christianized, especially those recorded in Wales. However, a particular feature of Celtic myths may have prevented this from happening more often: namely, the way in which deities have been anthropomorphized (given human form), so that, unlike the Greek myths, they are not obviously religious in nature.
Sources of MythsThe surviving Celtic myths come from Scotland and Ireland, which were at one time closely related, from Wales (though many of these originated orally further east), and from Brittany. No myths survive from Romanized areas, such as Gaul on the Continent. They do not appear to have been written down in Latin.The greatest body of myth comes from Ireland, which was untouched by the Romans, although much of its mythic material was destroyed by Viking marauders. An Irish myth, The Harp of the Dagda is given below.
GoddessPowerful though these gods were, the Celtic goddesses were perhaps even more so. They were closely associated with the land, and in this identification they sometimes seem to be aspects of a single all-embracing Goddess. Their link to the seasonal cycles, to fertility and death, may partly account for the fact that a single goddess often takes three forms, or aspects usually maiden, mother and crone.Celtic goddesses could be life-giving and sustaining, but were also, in their dark aspect, associated with sex and death, which in Celtic terms are part of the round of life. The most powerful Irish example is the red-haired shape-shifting Morrigan, said to have coupled with the Dagda.