Were the Celts Pagan?


The Celts were a community of tribes originating from central Europe. Because these tribes shared similar cultures, languages, and religious beliefs, they all became labeled as Celts. Their religious beliefs are essential to take note of.

Because of their polytheistic views, the Celts were considered Pagan by Christians. However, the early Celts did not leave many written records of their history, so most of what was known about them was written later on.

This article will use the information available to explore the Celts’ religious beliefs, the gods and goddesses they worshiped, and who they consider their most powerful God.

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What were the Celts’ religious beliefs? See below

What Were the Celts’ Religious Beliefs?

The Celts were polytheistic, which means they worshiped multiple gods and goddesses. Because of their polytheistic views, they were considered Pagans by members of the Christian faith. However, the definition of “Pagan” may differ depending on who is being asked.

Typically, Paganism is an umbrella term for Christians, and for the most part, it means those who organize themselves and operate away from a centralized religious body and standardized dogma. [1]

However, another way to define a Pagan is simply as someone who follows the old religion dating back before the emergence of Christianity.

One of the central concepts of Paganism is interconnectedness, meaning many Pagans believe they are able to connect with the universe and the divine. The Celts believed that blondes in their society could connect with God and that silver hair meant they were able to connect with both this world and the one after this.

The Celtic Druids acted as priests but also as judges and teachers. [2] The additional responsibilities of the Druidic priest are what makes them different from a Christian priest. Druidic priests also performed sacrifices, but only as the gravest punishment someone could face. Druids also believed in reincarnation.

Their difference in beliefs and how they practiced their beliefs led Christians to call them Pagan or Heathen. The Celtics themselves didn’t think of themselves that way; in fact, they didn’t label themselves at all. They simply believed and worshiped in the ways that seemed right to them.

pagan idol
Who were the Celts’ gods and goddesses? See below

Who Were the Main Gods and Goddesses of the Celts?

The main gods and goddesses the Celts worshiped is a topic of much debate among scholars. Historically, the Celts worshiped many gods and goddesses, making it difficult to say which ones were viewed as more important than the others.

However, there are some deities that many sources agree are “the main ones,” so those will be the ones outlined in this section. 

Some of the main gods and goddesses of the Celts include Aengus Óg, Brigid, Cernunnos, Dagda, Danu, and Lugh. The Morrigan was also important to the Celts. She was sometimes seen as one person and sometimes as three.

Aengus Óg

Aengus Óg, also known as Angus or Oengus of the Bruig, was believed to be the God of beauty, love, and youth. [3] He fell in love with a maiden destined to become a swan, so he turned into a swan to be with her. For this reason, he is considered the patron god of young lovers.

Brigid

Also known as Brigit, Brigid is possibly the most well-known Celtic Goddess. [4] Brigid is the Goddess of many things, such as:

  • Fertility 
  • All things feminine
  • Fire
  • Healing
  • Poetry

Like the Morrigan, she may have been worshiped as a triple goddess for the many things she represented. 

Cernunnos

Cernunnos is the horned god representing fertility, masculine energy, and prosperity. He is also known as the Green Man because he is the god of flora and fauna. In some traditions, he is also considered the god of death and dying. Cernunnos is often celebrated around the Beltane Sabbat. 

Dagda

Dagda, also known as the Good God, is often depicted as a large, powerful man with a beard wielding clubs. He is the leader of The Tuatha Dé Danann. Dagda is associated with many things, including: 

  • Agriculture
  • Fertility
  • Manliness
  • The weather

Danu

Danu is a mother goddess representing death, fertility, nature, regeneration, wisdom, and more. Historically, people would worship her by sacrificing a white bull. The Celts believed that by sacrificing this white bull in Danu’s name, she would reward the tribe with an exceptionally produced harvest.

Lugh

Lugh, also known as Lugos, Logos, or Lugh, is the god of artisans, blacksmiths, and metal-workers. He was honored for his gifts and skills as a craftsman. Lugh is the reason for the celebration of Lammas, or Lughnasadh, which is always celebrated on August 1st.

The Morrigan

The Morrigan, also known as The Great Queen, The Queen of Demons, and many other names, is the goddess of death, fate, and war. She was known to encourage warriors to battle madness, using her magic to influence them. However, she never joined the battles herself. The Morrigan is also known as the Crone aspect of the goddess.

pagan idols
Who is the most powerful Celtic god? See below

Who Is the Most Powerful Celtic God?

With each god and goddess having their own powerful representations of what they are known for, it is hard to say which one is the most powerful.

Some scholars say that Lugh is the most powerful Celtic god, while others say that Dagda is the most powerful god. The power structure of the Celtic gods was less clear-cut than that of the Greeks and Romans.

Besides being the Celtic god of craftsmanship, Lugh was also praised for his heroic efforts. Lugh had slain Balor, the one-eyed warrior king of the Formorians with whom the Celts had a bitter war. For this reason, Lugh is sometimes regarded as the military commander of the Celtic pantheon.

Dagda has the most eminent position in the Celtic pantheon as he was considered the chief of the Celtic gods. Dadga is often compared to Odin, the all-father in Norse mythology, due to the similarity in their traits. His depiction is also a powerful one, same as Odin’s. 

So who the most powerful Celtic god is is a question best left for scholarly debate. It all depends on what scholars consider more powerful – heroic powers and military achievement? Or being considered the all-father of all the gods and goddesses? 

Conclusion

In essence, the Celts were considered Pagan because of their polytheistic views that went against the monotheistic opinions of the Christian religion.

References:
[1] Source
[2] Source
[3] Source
[4] Source

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