Gods of Light and Art
Of the Gaulish gods who enjoyed wide recognition, only a few remained popular by the time the Celts had receded to the British Isles. These were Lugos, who became Lugh, god of arts and craftsmanship, and Ogmios, who remained throughout the god of eloquence and poetic skill, called Oghma by the Irish.
Belenos (sometimes Belenus) was an early Gallic sun god, about whom very little is known. To the Welsh, he was Beli Mawr. The festival of Belenos was Beltaine, held on the first of May to mark the beginning of summer.
Belenos was identified with the Greek Apollo, as the driver of a vast horse-drawn sunwagon. The emblems of Belenos were the lightning bolt, the wagon, and the solar wheel. Like many of the early Celtic father-gods, Belenos was closely associated with horses. Belenos represented the light and heat of the sun, and in later times, he was associated with healing hot springs and baths.
It can often get confusing trying to keep straight which Celtic deities ruled what and to which classical gods they corresponded. It is important to keep in mind that the gods did not always have the same aspects in every area they were worshipped, and that different cultures within the Celtic milieu stressed some over others.
Irish mythology often revolves around the forces of light and darkness and their constant struggle for control. Unlike other such worldviews, however, the Irish appear to have embraced both the light and the darkness. One deity who embodies this dualistic view was the Gallic god Lugos, eventually known to the Irish as Lugh and to the Welsh as Lleu.
The god Lugos was very popular with the Gauls, and several ancient cities were named for him. Lugos was a god of light and had affinities with both Mercury and Apollo. Lugos could be considered a sun god, but he was also a god of industry and art. Lugos above all the Celtic gods was most often associated with Mercury, to the extent that in some areas, the two gods became completely identified. Lugo's icons were ravens and dogs.
Lugos may have had a triple aspect, as some older images depict him with three heads or faces. Some scholars have even suggested that Lugos was not a single god, but a trinity of sorts — the god Esus, Taranis, and Teutates as one triune deity. There is also a possible connection between an epithet of the Irish Lugh (“Fierce Striker”) and the ancient nameless hammer god.
With the coming of Christianity, Lugos was associated with the archangel Michael, who was also considered to have solar affinities. Many of the sacred places once dedicated to Lugos were rededicated to the angel.
In a commentary on the Celtic reverence for a deity he referred to as Mercury, but who was certainly Lugos, Caesar remarked:
… of all the gods they most worship is Mercury. He has the largest number of images, and they regard him as the inventor of all the arts, as their guide on the roads and in travel, and as chiefly influential in making money and in trade.
Lugos was one of the few Gaulish gods to transition into the Irish and British pantheons — as Lugh, he became one of the Tuatha Dé Danann. His feast day, Lughnasadh, was held on the first of August. Lugh was a god of intellect, a patron of craftsmanship and skill. In mythological stories he wins many battles of wit and makes many displays of cleverness. The legend of Lugh's entry into the Tuatha Dé Danann tells that he was refused admittance unless he could demonstrate a unique skill. He demonstrated his abilities as a smith, a warrior, a poet, a magician, and a harpist, but each time was told the tribe had someone with each of these skills. Clever Lugh asked if they had one who can do all of these at once, and stumped, the gods had to allow him to join them. Lugh quickly earned their respect, however, and even became their chief.
In Welsh mythology, Lugos became Lleu, the brother of Dylan and the son of the goddess Arianrhod. Lleu's aspects are essentially the same as Lugh's, and both are connected to agriculture and the calendar, but their personal mythologies and relationships differ.