With local gods and spirit guardians overwhelmingly the most
common form of deity for our ancestors, the deities of the
local environment are still the principal focus of devotions
amongst dedicated Druids today.
many look back to find the gods of the old tribes too and
medieval literature offers information about many of
these deities, both the spirits of place and the mythical heroes.
It is difficult to correlate the mythology in the literature
with the archaeological finds and the Classical evidence. This
also reveals the problems of working with texts so profoundly
influenced by other cultures, not
least the Christian. Nonetheless, Druids who now wish to work
with Celtic gods other than their local spirits of place will
find many books that reveal their stories. Here I offer a brief
the key figures, one of the most commonly invoked in modern
Druidry is Arianrhod, daughter of the mother goddess Don and
of Beli Mawr, from whom all medieval dynasties claim descent.
She is a goddess of the stars, in particular the constellation
Corona Borealis. She is called the Lady of the Silver Wheel,
and rules over birth and initiation. Her lover is Gwyddion,
one of her brothers. He
is a lord of the skies – the Milky Way is Caer Gwyddion – and
a god of words, a Bard.
'Lleu of Skilful Hand' is a god of many skills and a favourite
amongst modern Druids. Manawyddan, a god of the sea, was married
to Rhiannon, the horse goddess and so also a goddess of the
land. Her first husband was Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed and a lord
of Annwn, the underworld. The god of the underworld is Arawn,
a hunter of souls who rides his gray horse through the dusk
with his pack of white hounds with alarming red ears. Bran
is a guardian of the land and a god of war, while his sister,
Branwen, is a goddess of love and death. Ceridwen, holder of
the cauldron of inspiration and rebirth, is a dark mother goddess
and possibly the most important goddess in the Welsh medieval
Many of the Irish gods now revered within Druidry are of the
Tuatha de Danaan, the Children of Danu, a superhuman race who
at Beltane in some year of prehistory conquered the Fir Bolg
and took the island as their own. When later they themselves
were overwhelmed it is said that the Tuatha disappeared into
the sacred hills of the Earth where they became the Faery folk,
Dagda is the father god, known as the Good God and Lord of
Knowledge. He is coarser than the other members of the Tuatha
de Danaan. Dressed as a peasant, pot-bellied and dragging a
vast club set on wheels, he is lord of life and death, offering
abundance and rebirth from his vast cauldron of plenty. In
many ways similar to the Dagda, yet younger and more refined,
is Lugh, the 'shining' god. Lugh's son is Cu Chulainn, one
of the great mythical heroes of the Irish texts.
Danu (or Anu or Don) is a mother goddess of the land and a
river goddess. She is also considered the mother of all the
Celtic gods. Her name means 'sacred gift' and for some within
the tradition it is used in the same way as the Welsh word
Awen, denoting inspirational energy. Among the other Irish
gods, Bile is a god of death, some say husband to Danu. Mannanan
Mac Lir is the sea god. Goibhnue is god of smithcraft and beer
making, similar to the Welsh Govannon.
Not all modern Druids who work with non-local deities honour
those of the Irish or British myths. The old Gallic gods are
also acknowledged in some parts of the tradition. Esus, whose
name means 'lord' or 'master', is said to be god of the sacred
oak. Cernunnos, a horned fertility god, is one of the most
popular gods in modern Paganism, while many Druids revere the
Saxon and Norse gods, such as Woden (Odin) and Freya.
An important element in the tradition is the goddess of the
land, in particular through her relationship with the king.
If the bond between them was strong, the goddess would bless
the land with abundance, but if he dishonoured her she would
cause devastation. There are many stories in both the Irish
and Welsh texts of how the bond between goddess and king was
The connection between horses and the goddess of the land
is also common. One of the best known myths is that of Pwyll
who, sitting on the mound of Arberth, is captivated by the
sight of Rhiannon riding past on her white mare. The ancient
chalk figure at Uffington, Wiltshire, is a particularly sacred
place for many Druids, its white horse symbolizing the essential
power of the land.
is the key to the way Druids work with their deities. While
there is clear acknowledgement of the gods'
power, there is no sense of hierarchy between gods and humankind.
A Druid will strive to enchant a deity with whom she'd like
to work. Giving offerings of reverence to nature and to the
ancestors, she will endeavour to remain open, listening, waiting
for a god or goddess to come to her. After the connection has
been made, the process is then about building a strong relationship,
learning through respect to understand the divine power and
learning through devotion how she can give to that god of herself.
There is surrender, yet no sense of submission.
Druid will be uncovering too, through a growing clarity and
what it is that she wants. It may be protection, love, security,
freedom, healing, teaching. But more often than not, within
the tradition nothing more specific is requested than simply
Druid knows that, with the gift of divine inspiration (Awen)
received, she will have all she needs: the idea or solution
and the energy to make it happen.
fully accept any gift, though, we need to have given sufficiently
in return. Our relationships with the gods are built on this
need for perfect exchange. We offer of ourselves, through both
sacrifice and joy, giving back to the gods the creativity born
of our inspiration. As our offerings are accepted, so we succeed
the attention of the deity, thereby nourishing the relationship.
And as the relationship develops, the flow of divine energy
that we are offered also grows, as does our love and trust,
together with our ability to give...and to receive.
The experience of communion, of sharing energy with spirit,
of opening to receive the Awen, intensifies the Druid's perception
and experience of the worlds within which she lives, because
of the heightened awareness caused by the increased flow of
energy. This in itself opens the mind to different levels of
reality, broadening the perception and experience of life as