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This page contains Familiars inspired by Celtic and similar mythologies.

History

Celtic mythology is the religion of the Iron Age Celts. Like other Iron Age Europeans, the early Celts maintained a polytheistic mythology and religious structure. Among Celts in close contact with Ancient Rome, such as the Gauls and Celtiberians, their mythology did not survive the Roman empire, their subsequent conversion to Christianity, and the loss of their Celtic languages. It is mostly through contemporary Roman and Christian sources that their mythology has been preserved.

Creatures

Cat sìth

Cat Sith Warlord II Figure
The Cat Sìth (Scottish Gaelic: [kʰaht̪ ˈʃiː]) or Cat Sidhe (Irish: [kat̪ˠ ˈʃiː], Cat Sí in new orthography) is a fairy creature from Celtic mythology, said to resemble a large black cat with a white spot on its breast. Legend has it that the spectral cat haunts the Scottish Highlands. The legends surrounding this creature are more common in Scottish folklore, but a few occur in Irish. Some common folklore suggested that the Cat Sìth was not a fairy, but a witch that could transform into a cat nine times.


Cath Palug

Cath Palug the Bristle II Figure
Cath Palug, or Chapalu, literally "Palug's cat", was a monstrous cat in French and Welsh legend. It was said to haunt the Isle of Anglesey, and to have killed and eaten nine score (180) warriors. The Welsh Triads make it the offspring of an enormous sow, Henwen, and claim that at birth it was thrown into the sea to drown. Surviving, it instead swam to Anglesey where the sons of Palug raised it, not realizing its deadly potential. Escaping, it wreaked havoc until slain by Sir Kay.


Cu Sith

Cu Sith, Magehound II Figure
The Cù-Sìth (Scottish Gaelic: [kuː ʃiː]), plural Coin-Sìth (Scottish Gaelic: [kɔːn ʃiː]) is a mythological hound found in Scotland and the Hebrides. In Scottish folklore, the Cù-Sìth is said to be the size of a young bull. Its fur is shaggy, and usually cited as being dark green or sometimes white. Its tail is described as being long and either coiled up or plaited (braided). Its paws are described as being the width of a man's hand. The Cù-Sìth is thought to make its home in the clefts of rocks in the Highlands, and also to roam the moors and highlands.


Leprechaun

Lubberkin, Four Leaf Clover II Figure
A leprechaun (Irish: leipreachán) is a type of fairy in Irish folklore. It is usually depicted as a little old man, wearing a coat and hat, who partakes in mischief. They are solitary creatures who spend their time making and mending shoes and have a hidden pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If captured by a human, the leprechaun has the magical power to grant three wishes in exchange for their freedom. Like other Irish fairies, leprechauns may be derived from the Tuatha Dé Danann. Leprechaun-like creatures rarely appear in Irish mythology and only became prominent in later folklore.


Merrow

Alluring Merrow II Figure
Merrow (from Gaelic murúch) or Murrough (Galloway) is the Scottish and Irish Gaelic equivalent of the mermaid and mermen of other cultures.

The merrow-maiden is like the commonly stereotypical mermaid: half-human, a gorgeous woman from waist up, and fish-like waist down, her lower extremity "covered with greenish-tinted scales" (according to O'Hanlon). She has green hair which she fondly grooms with her comb. She exhibits slight webbing between her fingers, a white and delicate film resembling "the skin between egg and shell"

Said to be of "modest, affectionate, gentle, and disposition," the merrow is believed "capable of attachment to human beings," with reports of inter-marriage.[ One such mixed marriage took place in Bantry, producing descendants marked by "scaly skin" and "membrane between fingers and toes". But after some "years in succession" they will almost inevitably return to the sea, their "natural instincts" irresistibly overcoming any love-bond they may have formed with their terrestrial family. And to prevent her acting on impulse, her cohuleen druith (or "little magic cap") must be kept "well concealed from his sea-wife".


Pùca

Pooka the Glimmering II Figure
The púca (Irish for goblin) is primarily a creature of Irish folklore. Considered to be both bringers of good and bad fortune, they could either help or hinder rural and marine communities. The creatures were said to be shape changers which could take the appearance of black horses, goats and rabbits. It is also a creature associated with Samhain, a Goidelic harvest festival, when the last of the crops are brought in. Anything remaining in the fields is considered "puka", and hence inedible. In some locales, reapers leave a small share of the crop, the "púca's share", to placate the hungry creature.


Selkie

Selkie, Lady of the Shore II Figure
Selkies (also spelled silkies, selchies; Irish/Scottish Gaelic: selchidh, Scots: selkie fowk) are mythological creatures found in Scottish, Irish, and Faroese folklore. Similar creatures are described in the Icelandic traditions. The word derives from earlier Scots selich, (from Old English seolh meaning seal). Selkies are said to live as seals in the sea but shed their skin to become human on land. The legend is apparently most common in Orkney and Shetland and is very similar to those of swan maidens.


Gods & Deities

Aengus

Aengus, the Charitable II Figure
Aengus, son of Dagda and Boann, is the Irish god of love, youth and poetic inspiration. He is describes as a handsome young man with 4 birds , thought to symbolize kisses, flying above his head. After seeing a young maiden in a dream he fell in love and searched a year unsuccessfully for her. He told his mother Boann who also searched for the maiden a year to no avail. Finally Bov the Red, king of the Dananns in Munster and Dagda's aide, was called to search and after a year he found the maiden. Aengus was called the the lake of the Dragon's mouth where he found 150 maidens chained to pillars by gold chains. In an instance Aengus found the maiden of his dreams, Caer. On November 1st all of the maidens were turned into swans, and Aengus was told that if he could find his love after she was turned into a swan he could marry her. He went out to the lake again and after finding his love he turned into a swan himself and they flew off together singing beautiful songs.


Belisama

Belisama, Flame Goddess II Figure
A Gaulish goddess, she is known from Romano-Gaulish inscriptions that equate her with the Roman goddess Minerva. An example being the inscription MINERVAE BELISSIMAE SACRUM (sacred to Belisama Minerva) from Vaison-la-Romaine, France, which strongly indicates that Belisama's nemeton was located here.

In Gaulish mythology she is the consort of the god Belenus and this (along with her name) has led to the proposition that she is a goddess of all types of fire (including sun- and moon-light) as well as of crafts. However, her equation with the Roman goddess Minerva and the fact that she seems to be bearing serpents in her statue representation would indicate that she was a goddess of wisdom and healing and as a light-bearer she might have been the goddess of the forge (which again is not incompatible with her association with Minerva as a goddess of crafts). Whether Belisama engendered one or all these diverse roles may never be known with certainty.

Belisama's name can be interpreted as being formed from the reconstructed proto-Celtic elements *belo- (bright) and samo- (summer), yielding the interpretation 'Summer Bright'.


Cernunnos

Cernunnos II Figure
Cernunnos is the conventional name given in Celtic studies to depictions of the horned god of Celtic polytheism. Nothing is known about the god from literary sources, and details about his name, his cult or his significance in Celtic religion are unknown. Speculative interpretations identify him as a god of nature or fertility. He reflects the seasons of the year in an annual cycle of life, death and rebirth.


Crom Cruach

Crom Cruach, the Silver Moon Figure
Crom Cruach (Old Irish pronunciation /ˈkɾˠɔmˠ ˈkɾˠuəç/; modern Irish Cromm Crúaich) was a god of pre-Christian Ireland. According to Christian writers, he was propitiated with human sacrifice and his worship was ended by Saint Patrick. He is also referred to as Crom Cróich, Cenn Cruach/Cróich (/ˈkʲɛnˠ: ˈkɾˠuəxˠ/) and Cenncroithi (/ˈkʲɛnˠ: ˈkɾˠoθʲɨ/).[citation needed] He is related to the later mythological and folkloric figure Crom Dubh. The festival for Crom Cruach is called Domhnach Crom Dubh, Crom Dubh Sunday. The references in the dinsenchas ("place-lore") poem in the 12th century to sacrifice in exchange for milk and grain suggest that Crom had a function as fertility god. The description of his image as a gold figure surrounded by twelve stone or bronze figures has been interpreted by some as representing the sun surrounded by the signs of the zodiac, suggesting a function as solar deity.
Crom Cruach's name takes several forms and can be interpreted in several ways. Crom (or cromm) can mean "bent, crooked, stooped, bowed, curved, crescent". Cenn can mean "head" or "the head, chief". Cruach (or crúach) can be an adjective, "bloody, gory", or a noun, meaning variously "slaughter", "(corn)stack", or "pile, heap, mound". Plausible meanings include "bloody crooked one", "crooked stack of corn", "crooked one of the mound", "bloody head", "head of the stack of corn" or "head of the mound".


Lugh

Sun-God Lugh II Figure
Lugh or Lug (/luɣ/; modern Irish: Lú /lu:/) is an Irish deity represented in mythological texts as a hero and High King of the distant past. He is known by the epithets Lámhfhada (pronounced /'la:wad̪ˠə/, meaning "long arm" or "long hand"), for his skill with a spear or sling, Ildánach ("skilled in many arts"), Samhildánach ("Equally skilled in many arts"), Lonnbeimnech ("fierce striker" or perhaps "sword-shouter") and Macnia ("boy hero"), and by the matronymic mac Ethlenn or mac Ethnenn ("son of Ethliu or Ethniu"). He is a reflex of the pan-Celtic god Lugus, and his Welsh counterpart is Lleu Llaw Gyffes, "The Bright One with the Strong Hand".

As a young man Lugh travels to Tara to join the court of king Nuada of the Tuatha Dé Danann. The doorkeeper will not let him in unless he has a skill with which to serve the king. He offers his services as a wright, a smith, a champion, a swordsman, a harpist, a hero, a poet and historian, a sorcerer, and a craftsman, but each time is rejected as the Tuatha Dé Danann already have someone with that skill. But when Lugh asks if they have anyone with all those skills simultaneously, the doorkeeper has to admit defeat, and Lugh joins the court and is appointed Chief Ollam of Ireland. He wins a flagstone-throwing contest against Ogma, the champion, and entertains the court with his harp. The Tuatha Dé Danann are at that time oppressed by the Fomorians, and Lugh is amazed how meekly they accept this. Nuada wonders if this young man could lead them to freedom. Lugh is given command over the Tuatha Dé Danann, and he begins making preparations for war.

He had several wives, including Buí and Nás, daughters of Ruadri, king of Britain. Buí lived and was buried at Knowth. Nás was buried at Naas, County Kildare, which is named after her. Lugh had a son, Ibic, by Nás. His daughter or sister was Ebliu, who married Fintan. One of his wives, unnamed, had an affair with Cermait, son of the Dagda. Lugh killed him in revenge, but Cermait's sons, Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht and Mac Gréine, killed Lugh in return, drowning him in Loch Lugborta. He had ruled for forty years.


Manannán mac Lir

Manannan mac Lir II Figure
Manannán mac Lir is a sea deity in Irish mythology. He is the son of the obscure Lir (in Irish the name is "Lear", meaning "Sea"; "Lir" is the genitive form of the word). He is often seen as a psychopomp, and has strong affiliations with Tír na nÓg (the Irish Otherworld), the weather and the mists between the worlds. He is usually associated with the Tuatha Dé Danann, although most scholars consider him to be of an older race of deities. Manannán figures widely in Irish literature, and appears also in Scottish and Manx legend. He is cognate with the Welsh figure Manawydan fab Llŷr.
Manannán had many magical items. He gave Cormac mac Airt his magic goblet of truth; he had a ship that did not need sails named "Wave Sweeper"; he owned a cloak of mists that granted him invisibility, a flaming helmet, and a sword named Fragarach ("Answerer" or "Retaliator") that could slice through any armour and upon command when pointed at a target could make that target answer any question asked truthfully. He also owned a horse called "Enbarr of the Flowing Mane" which could travel over water as easily as land. In some sources he is described as driving his chariot over the sea as if over land, and through fields of purple flowers.


Events

Samhain

Samhain, Night Trampler Figure
Samhain is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the "darker half" of the year. Traditionally, Samhain is celebrated from sunset on 31 October to sunset on 1 November. The festival falls approximately halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals, which are also celebrated approximately halfway between the two yearly solstices and equinoxes: Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadh. Historically, it has been widely observed throughout Ireland, and later the Isle of Man and Scotland. Similar festivals are held at the same time of year in other Celtic lands; for example the Brythonic Calan Gaeaf (in Wales), Kalan Gwav (in Cornwall), and Kalan Goañv (in Brittany).


Individual Characters and Creatures

Cú Chulainn

Cu Chulainn, the Thunderbolt Figure
Cú Chulainn, also spelt Cú Chulaind or Cúchulainn; Irish for "Culann's Hound") and sometimes known in English as Cuhullin, is an Irish mythological hero who appears in the stories of the Ulster Cycle, as well as in Scottish and Manx folklore. He is believed to be an incarnation of the god Lugh, who is also his father. His mother is the mortal Deichtine, sister of Conchobar mac Nessa. Born Sétanta, he gained his better-known name as a child, after killing Culann's fierce guard-dog in self-defence and offered to take its place until a replacement could be reared. At the age of seventeen he defended Ulster single-handedly against the armies of queen Medb of Connacht in the famous Táin Bó Cúailnge ("Cattle Raid of Cooley"). It was prophesied that his great deeds would give him everlasting fame, but his life would be a short one. He is known for his terrifying battle frenzy, or ríastrad (translated by Thomas Kinsella as "warp spasm" and by Ciaran Carson as "torque"), in which he becomes an unrecognisable monster who knows neither friend nor foe. He fights from his chariot, driven by his loyal charioteer Láeg and drawn by his horses, Liath Macha and Dub Sainglend. In more modern times, Cú Chulainn is often referred to as the "Hound of Ulster"..


Culann

Culann, Raving Gravekeeper II Figure
In the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology, Culann was a smith whose house was protected by a ferocious watchdog.

He invited Conchobar mac Nessa, king of Ulster, and his retinue to a feast at his house. On the way Conchobar saw his young nephew Sétanta playing hurling, and was so impressed he invited the boy to join him at the feast. Sétanta told him he would catch him up once the game was over.

The feast got underway, and Culann asked Conchobar if he was expecting anyone else. Conchobar, who had forgotten about Sétanta, answered no, and Culann unleashed his watchdog. When Sétanta arrived he was forced to kill the dog in self defense, and out of obligation offered to take its place until a replacement could be reared. For this he was renamed Cú Chulainn – "Culann's hound".


Étaín

Etain, Butterfly Tamer II Figure
Étaín or Édaín (modern spelling: Éadaoin) is a figure of Irish mythology, best known as the heroine of Tochmarc Étaíne (The Wooing Of Étaín), one of the oldest and richest stories of the Mythological Cycle. She also figures in the Middle Irish Togail Bruidne Dá Derga (The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel). T. F. O'Rahilly identified her as a sun goddess.
The name Étaín is alternately spelt as Edain, Aideen, Etaoin, Éadaoin, Aedín, or Adaon. It is derived from a diminutive form of Old Irish ét, "passion, jealousy". She is sometimes known by the epithet Echraide, ("horse rider"), suggesting links with horse deities and figures such as the Welsh Rhiannon and the Gaulish Epona. In Tochmarc Étaíne Midir names her Bé Find (Fair Woman). However, the poem embedded in the text, "A Bé Find in ragha lium" may be an older, unrelated composition that was appended to the story later.


Fergus mac Léti

Fergus, Bold King II Figure
Fergus mac Léti (also mac Léte, mac Léide, mac Leda) was, according to Irish legend and traditional history, a king of Ulster. His place in the traditional chronology is not certain - according to some sources, he was a contemporary of the High King Conn of the Hundred Battles, in others of Lugaid Luaigne, Congal Cláiringnech, Dui Dallta Dedad and Fachtna Fáthach.


Fionn mac Cumhaill

Fionn, the Meteor Sword II Figure
Fionn mac Cumhaill, sometimes transcribed in English as Finn MacCool or Finn MacCoul, was a mythical hunter-warrior of Irish mythology, occurring also in the mythologies of Scotland and the Isle of Man. The stories of Fionn and his followers the Fianna, form the Fenian Cycle (an Fhiannaíocht), much of it narrated in the voice of Fionn's son, the poet Oisín.

"Fionn" means "blond", "fair", "white", or "bright". The hero's childhood name was Deimne, literally "sureness" or "certainty", also a name that means a young male deer; several legends tell how he gained the name Fionn when his hair turned prematurely white. The name Fionn is related to the Welsh name Gwyn, as in the mythological figure Gwyn ap Nudd, and to the continental Celtic Vindos, a form of the god Belenus.

The 19th-century Irish revolutionary organisation known as the Fenian Brotherhood took its name from these legends. The Scottish form of his name, Fingal, comes from a retelling of the legends in epic form by the 18th-century poet James Macpherson.


Gan Ceann and Dullahan

Gan Ceann Figure
Dullahan Figure
The Gan Ceann (Irish Gaelic: "without a head"), also called the Dullahan (Irish Gaelic: "dark man"), is an unseelie faerie in Irish mythology. The Gan Ceann is a kind of reaper: it rides to where a person is due to die, and when it calls out their name, they perish immediately. Gates and locked doors are no obstacle to him, for they spring open when he approaches. They are said to fear gold, and even a humble gold pin can drive a Gan Ceann away.


Henwas, Elf Magus

Henwas, Elf Archmagus II Figure
Son of Erim. He was known as Henwas the Winged because he could run faster than any animal. Also identified as Henwas, Henbeddestyr or Henbeddestyr.


Medb

Medb, Jealous Queen II Figure
Medb is queen of Connacht in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology. Her husband in the core stories of the cycle is Ailill mac Máta, although she had several husbands before him who were also kings of Connacht. She rules from Cruachan (now Rathcroghan, County Roscommon). She is the enemy (and former wife) of Conchobar mac Nessa, king of Ulster, and is best known for starting the Táin Bó Cúailnge ("The Cattle Raid of Cooley") to steal Ulster's prize stud bull.


Nuada Airgetlám

Nuadha, the Shining Blade II Figure
Nuada Airgetlám ("silver arm"), was the first king of the Tuatha Dé Danann. After leading his people to Ireland, he encountered the native Fir Bolg tribe, and the two forces entered a war for territory. In battle, the Fir Bolg champion Sreng severed Nuadha's arm, but the Fir Bolg were defeated. Nuadha later had the lost arm replaced with a working silver one. Nuada was killed in battle twenty-seven years later by the Fomorian Balor, but was avenged by his protege and successor, Lugh.


Nuckelavee

Nuckelavee Plaguebringer II Figure
The Nuckelavee is a creature from Northern folklore. It is the most horrible of all the elves. He lives mainly in the sea, but was also held responsible for ruined crops, epidemics, and drought. His breath could wilt the crops and sicken the livestock. The Nuckelavee resembles a centaur whose legs are part fin; he has an enormous gaping mouth and a single giant eye, which burns with a red flame.


Oilliphéist

Ollpheist II Figure
The Oilliphéist (from Irish oll, meaning "great", and péist, meaning "worm, fabulous beast, monster, reptile") is a dragon-like monster in Irish mythology. The Scottish Gaelic equivalent is called Uilepheist.

In one story, the Oilliphéist cuts the route of the River Shannon when it hears that Saint Patrick has come to drive out it and its kind.

In a comic addition to the story, the monster swallows a drunken piper named O'Rourke (Ó Ruairc). The piper is either unaware of his predicament or is completely unperturbed and continues to play inside the Oilliphéist's stomach. The monster becomes so annoyed with O'Rourke's music that it coughs him up and spits him out.


Piast

Biast II Figure
Piast (less commonly spelled Biast) in Irish folklore was a monstrous serpent found in lakes. In modern cryptozoology, Piast is believed to be a 40 foot long serpent found in Lough Ree in Ireland. Biast (also spelled Bèist) is Gaelic for "beast" or "monster".


Scáthach

Scathach, Shadow Goddess II Figure
Scáthach (Scottish Gaelic: Sgàthach an Eilean Sgitheanach), or Sgathaich, is a figure in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology. She is a legendary Scottish warrior woman and martial arts teacher who trains the legendary Ulster hero Cú Chulainn in the arts of combat. Texts describe her homeland as Scotland (Alpae); she is especially associated with the Isle of Skye, where her residence Dún Scáith, or "Dun Sgathaich" (Fortress of Shadows), stands. She is called "the Shadow" and "Warrior Maid" and is the rival and sister of Aífe, both daughters of Árd-Greimne of Lethra.


Races

Fomorians

Fomor the Savage II Figure
The Fomoire (or Fomorians) are a semi-divine race that inhabited Ireland in ancient times. They are a pantheon of nature gods, as opposed to the Tuatha Dé Danann, who are gods representing human civilisation. According to an 11th century text in the Lebor na hUidre, they have the body of a man and the head of a goat.


Spirits

Banshee

Banshee Rider II Figure
The Banshee, from Irish: bean sí [bʲæn ˈʃiː] ("woman of the sídhe" or "woman of the fairy mounds"), is a female spirit in Irish mythology, usually seen as an omen of death and a messenger from the Otherworld. Banshees were said to appear for particular Irish families, though which families made it onto this list varied depending on who was telling the story. Stories of banshees were also prevalent in the West Highlands of Scotland.


Glaistig

Greenshade Glaistig II Figure
The glaistig /ˈɡlæʃtɨɡ/ is a ghost from Scottish mythology, a type of fuath. It is also known as maighdean uaine (Green Maiden), and may appear as a woman of beautiful or monstrous mien, as a half-woman half-goat similar to a faun, or in the shape of a goat. The lower goat half of her hybrid form is usually disguised by a long, flowing green robe or dress, and the woman often appears grey with long yellow hair.


Melusine

Melusine the Witch II Figure
Melusine (or Melusina) is a figure of European legends and folklore, a feminine spirit of fresh waters in sacred springs and rivers. She is usually depicted as a woman who is a serpent or fish from the waist down (much like a mermaid). She is also sometimes illustrated with wings, two tails or both. Melusine legends are especially connected with the northern, most Celtic areas of Gaul, Poitou and the Low Countries.


Treasures

Claiomh Solais

Uscias, the Claiomh Solais II Figure
Claiomh Solais (reformed spelling), Claidheamh Soluis (unreformed Mod. Ir.); an cloidheamh solais , is an Irish term meaning "Sword of Light", or "Shining Sword", which appears in a number of Irish mythological tales dealing with the otherworld. It also appears in numerous Scottish Gaelic folk-tales. More recently, it is sometimes popularly equated with swords from Irish mythology (Cúchulainn's sword Cruaidín, or Nuada's sword, one of the Four Treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann).

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