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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. See alsoBrân; Brigit.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Celtic religion, visit Britannica.com.
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