Welsh Celtic Gods and Goddesses List and Descriptions
The Welsh Celtic Pantheon
The Celtic Empire at its peak stretched from Eastern Europe all the way to England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Many of the regions of the Celtic Empire had their own pantheon of gods and goddesses, while some of these deities were worshiped widely. At that time, Wales had many of its own gods and goddesses, which will be discussed in this article.
The Welsh Celts were a proud and strong group of people, and so their gods and goddesses reflected their beliefs and values. Or was it the other way around? You might notice that some of the gods and goddesses of the Welsh Celtic pantheon might also be found in the British, Scottish or Irish Celtic pantheons. This is because as people traveled or conquered neighboring peoples, they brought their beliefs in the gods with them. For all intents and purposes, we will be focusing on some of the gods and goddesses who are believed to have originated with the Celts who lived in the country/region we now know as Wales (please note that this list is not all-inclusive).
Quick List of Welsh Celtic Gods and Goddesses
Welsh Celtic Gods
Welsh Celtic Goddesses
Welsh Celtic Gods: List and Descriptions
This Welsh Celtic god is spoken of in the Welsh legendary text the Mabinogi as being the king of Annwn (the Welsh Celtic Otherworld). He is said to have switched bodies with Pwyll in order to be paid for a "misdeed" done by Pwyll. It is also said that these two become friends towards the end of their engagements. As Christianity took over the land of Wales and pushed out the old ways, Arawn was no longer considered a god but was made into a "Wild Hunter" that flies through the sky on Winter nights with his hounds. Arawn is said to be seen particularly on the eves of saints' feasts as well as on Yule (Winter Solstice) night.
Bran (the Blessed)
Bran was a Celtic god believed to have originated in Wales. His name translates to "raven" and so he is closely associated with the raven. Some believe Bran began as a giant, a hero and a king of Britain and then was deified after his death; however, legends also say he was a son of the powerful sea god Lyr and Penarddun. He was a brother to Branwen and Manawydan (of whom we will also discuss in this article). After a brutal battle, Bran was killed but told his brothers to cut off his head and return it to Britain. His head was said to have talked to his brothers until they placed it in a hill that is now covered by the Tower of London, facing in the direction of France so as to ward off any future dangers. It is said that the ravens that guard the Tower of London are the Ravens of Bran, and that if they were to ever leave the Tower that England would fall. You can read more of Bran's story in the Welsh text from the fourteenth century called the Mabinogion.
Hafgan is the rival of Arawn, and he too is a king of the Welsh Celtic Otherworld known as Annwn. When Arawn switches places with Pwyll, he asks Pwyll to kill Hafgan as only a human can defeat him. And of course, Pwyll is able to defeat Hafgan and then Arawn takes over Hafgan's kingdom in Annwn...uniting both kingdoms into one in the Otherworld.
The name of this Welsh Celtic god is also the name of a modern pagan holiday celebrating the Autumnal Equinox. He has also been called The Boy, The Young Man and the Son of Modron. To put it simply, Mabon was and is seen as a "Divine Child" and as such various lessons can be learned from his legend found in the Welsh tale "Culhwch and Olwen". The tale says that he was stolen from Modron when he was only three days old but then eventually rescued by King Arthur's men. He is both one of the youngest and oldest souls, making his life a paradox. This balance is celebrated in the Autumnal Equinox, as the light and dark are at an equal stasis. Mabon is said to have been a hunter spirit with a magical horse and hound. Some resources state he is a god of the wild and protects and frees wild animals, while other resources state he is a god of love. Two things we know for sure - he is an ancient Celtic god and he was the son of Modron (the Great Mother).
Perhaps best known as the Welsh Celtic Goddess Rhiannon's husband, Manawydan is said to have been a son of the sea god Llyr and brother to Bran and Branwen. He is said to be the same god as the Isle of Man's sea god - Manannan Mac Lyr. Manawydan is one of the gods who takes Bran's head to the mound that is now thought to be located under the Tower of London. He is a Welsh Celtic God that is spoken of in two branches of the Mabinogi, and rescues his wife Rhiannon from an evil curse in the third branch. We could assume that he is a god of the sea; however, there is no text or archaeological evidence supporting this assumption. In some Arthurian legends, he is a knight of King Arthur's.
Welsh Celtic Goddesses: List and Descriptions
Not one of the more popular Welsh Celtic Goddesses, Aeronwen is important nevertheless. She is thought to maybe be the same goddess as Agrona, a war goddess whose name means "carnage". She is a Welsh Goddess of fate, and she is said to dole out the winning and losing sides in each battle in Wales. Tales in Wales say that the River Dee is dedicated to Aeronwen/Agrona and is where human sacrifices were made in her honor. There is also speculation that Aeronwen could be the Welsh equivalent to the Irish goddess The Morrigan. Aeronwen is associated with the color black, the number 3, and the battlefield.
Arianrhod is a Welsh Celtic Goddess that is well-known in today's pagan community, though there isn't a whole lot of information on her from the past. Her name is said to mean "Silver Wheel", which is associated with the Moon. Because of this, she is regarded as a lunar goddess and is said to protect the moon and women. This Welsh Celtic Goddess is mentioned in the fourth branch of the Mabinogi and is said to have mothered a set of twin boys - Dylan ail Don and Lleu Llaw Gyffes. She is the daughter of the Great Goddess known as Don.
Known as a Welsh Celtic Goddess that takes the form of an Owl. She is the wife of Lleu Llaw Gyffes (son of Arianrhod), and she was created from three things: meadowsweet flowers, broom, and oak by Gwydion (Arianrhod's brother). The tales of Blodeuwedd paint her into a picture of betrayal of her own husband, as she takes on a lover and plots to kill her husband. In Judika Iles' Encyclopedia of Spirits, she is referred to as the Welsh equivalent of the Bible's Delilah (the woman who betrays Samson in the Old Testament). While Blodeuwedd may seem a cold and calculating goddess, perhaps there is more to her story than we are told. She is said to protect women who are being forced to marry a particular man and brings her aid when women want to choose their own love. Blodeuwedd is a goddess in the form of an owl as she was cursed to remain in the night, forever out of the light of Lleu (a solar god).
This Welsh Celtic Goddess is the sister to Manawydan and Bran, as well as the daughter of Llyr. She is known for her great beauty, and is spoken of in the fourth branch of the Mabinogi. The Mabinogi talks of Branwen being married off into an abusive relationship and then is rescued by her brothers. Unfortunately the battle results in pure destruction and only pregnant women are left in Wales. Branwen is said to die from a broken heart for causing so much death. She is said to be a protector of women from abuse but she is also a goddess of true love and healthy marriages. A period of the Bronze Age is actually named after her - Bedd Branwen Period (1650-1400 B.C.). There is a ruined grave on the Alaw Riverbanks that is said to be Branwen's resting place. Archaeologists found two urns with human remains there and so it is theorized that Branwen was an actual person during the Bronze Age.
Cerridwen is a beloved Welsh Celtic goddess to many neo-pagans and witches today. She is a "keeper of the cauldron of knowledge, witch, herbalist and shape-shifting lunar deity" according to writer Judika Iles in the Encyclopedia of Spirits. The Book of Taliesin speaks of Cerridwen and her cauldron of transformation. This Welsh Celtic Goddess is said to have been married to a giant named Tegidfoel and has two children - a daughter named Crearwy and a son named Afagddu. Cerridwen knows all forms of magic and wisdom - she can brew a potion that grants her son knowledge of all. She is associated with the color white and the pig.
Not a whole lot is known of the Welsh Celtic Goddess named Modron. She is the Great Mother of the Divine Child called Mabon, therefore is associated with the Autumnal Equinox when celebrated as Mabon. Modron may be the same Goddess as Rhiannon, as their stories are similar (children stolen from them in the night to be returned to them later after much suffering).
Perhaps one of my favorite Welsh Celtic Goddesses is the horse-goddess Rhiannon. She is talked of at length in the Mabinogi, as well as in other Welsh mythological texts. Some people say she came from the land of the fae, and was a princess in those lands before being taken as a wife by the Welsh hero Pwyll. Hers is a tragic story - she gives birth to a son who is stolen from her when he is a baby. She is blamed for the disappearance of the babe and is made to suffer a punishment for years until her son is returned to her in one piece and as a grown man. She bears her punishment proudly and humbly and her strength is therefore an inspiration to many women. Rhiannon is associated with horses, and she is sometimes said to be the same goddess as the Celtic horse-goddess Epona. Birds are also her friends. She is now looked upon as a goddess of true love, motherhood, divination, strength, abundance, and happy marriages. She is a favorite of many with good reason. To learn more of Rhiannon's amazing story, click here.
How to Work with the Welsh Celtic Gods
Now that you've learned a little about some of the more popular Welsh Celtic Gods and Goddesses, you might be wondering how to work with them in your practice or how to simply bring their energy into your life. Research and study are the first ways to connect with the Welsh Celtic pantheon. From there, here are some suggestions for each Welsh Celtic deity:
Arawn: honor him on the longest night of the year - the Winter Solstice. He might also like people who are hunters and those who have dogs in their home.
Bran: pictures of Ravens and the Tower of London can be placed on an altar or around your home to invoke the energy of Bran the Blessed.
Mabon: honor him particularly on the Autumnal Equinox, when light and dark are at a balance. Apples and fall fruits can be set out as offerings to him.
Manawydan: by honoring Rhiannon, you are honoring Manawydan. You can also bring elements of the Tower of London and of King Arthur into your home or at your altar to honor Manawydan.
Aeronwen: because she is a war goddess, use the color black and elements of the battlefield to honor Aeronwen. The number three can be instituted on your altar or in your invocations of Aeronwen, as that is her favorite number.
Arianrhod: she is a lunar goddess, so worship or call to her on a Full Moon. Place images of the moon around your home or sacred space to honor her.
Branwen: anything to do with love and happy marriage can be used to honor Branwen (i.e. red rose petals, pictures of happy couples, mirrors to represent beauty and emotion, etc.)
Cerridwen: you must have a cauldron to bring in Cerridwen's energy in a substantial way. Dedicate this cauldron specifically to Cerridwen and use it when only working with her energy. By working with herbs, you are also honoring Cerridwen.
Modron: honor her as the Great Mother on Mabon/Autumnal Equinox. Apples are also her favorite. Ask her for help with issues of motherhood.
Rhiannon: one can honor Rhiannon by placing pictures of horses and birds around the sacred space. Rhiannon's colors are white, green, and purple.
Stevie Nicks singing "Rhiannon"
© 2015 Nicole Canfield