Celtic religion

Beliefs and practices of the ancient Celts of Gaul and the British Isles. Celtic worship centred on the interplay of the divine element with the natural world. Springs, rivers, and hills were thought to be inhabited by guardian spirits, usually female. Some gods were widely worshiped; lesser deities were associated with particular tribes or places. The most honoured god was Lugus, who was skilled in all the arts. Cernunnos was lord of the animals; the goddess of mares and fertility was called Epona (Gaul), Macha (Ireland), or Rhiannon (Britain). Goddesses often came in groups of three. The priests of Celtic religion were the Druids; they maintained an oral tradition and left no writings. Seasonal festivals included Samhain (November 1), which marked summer's end and served as a feast of the dead, and Beltane (May 1). Oak trees, holly, and mistletoe were considered sacred. The Celts believed in life after death as well as transmigration of souls. Seealso Brân; Brigit.

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Branch of the Indo-European language family spoken across a broad area of western and central Europe by the Celts in pre-Roman and Roman times, now confined to small coastal areas of northwestern Europe. Celtic can be divided into a continental group of languages (all extinct) and an insular group. Attestation of Insular Celtic begins around the time Continental Celtic fades from the scene as Celtic tongues gave way to Latin and other languages on the European continent. The Insular Celtic languages are conventionally divided into Goidelic (Irish, Manx, and Scottish Gaelic) and Brythonic (Welsh, Cornish, and Breton). Traditional Cornish was supplanted by English at the end of the 18th century. Manx, spoken on the Isle of Man, expired in the 20th century with the death of the last reputed native speaker in 1974. Both Manx and Cornish have been revived by enthusiasts, though neither can be considered community languages.

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The words Celt and Celtic can have a variety of meanings. Sometimes a pronunciation distinction is maintained - see Pronunciation of Celtic.

Pronounced /kelt(ik)/

Relating to the ethnic, linguistic and cultural group

Other meanings

Pronounced /selt(ik)/

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