Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Belenus and Belisama

Belenus was one of the most ancient and widespread Celtic deities. He was not only worshiped in Celtic Britain, but also in Gaul, Austria, Italy, and Spain. Belenus ("bright one") likely gave his name to the fire festival of Beltane, which was originally linked with his cult. Although the Celtics also associated him with pastoralism, healing, and fountains, the Romans connected Belenus as the god of light with their light god Apollo.

His consort or wife was Belisama ("summer bright"), the goddess of fire, bodies of water, and metalworking. She shared common traits with the goddess Brigid, as well as the Roman goddess Minerva. Many inscriptions bearing the name "Belisama Minerva" reflect the blending of deities and traditions that often occurred in Roman-occupied lands.

No myths of Belenus or Belisama have survived to modern times. Their names have been found only in classical texts and stone inscriptions, suggesting the presence of sanctuaries. The names of geographic features also hint at the existence of their cults.

Belenus and Bile Belenus is often mistakenly associated with Bile, an archaic Irish master god of life and death, due to the similarity of their names. However, as Belenus was a bright god of light and Bile was a dark god associated with death and the underworld, it is highly unlikely that these two deities were ever one and the same. The Welsh god Beli Mawr may have actually been a later version of Belenus. However, Beli Mawr may have also been a historical person, specifically, one of the kings of early Britain. Several lines of Welsh ancestry lead back to Beli Mawr.

River of Belisama Many Celtic goddesses were linked to various bodies Ptolemy described a "Belisama Aest" in his mapping of northern Britain, leading some to think he was talking about the Mersey River. However, since his map was not completely accurate, some scholars hold the view that the Ribble River in Lancashire, England, was being referred to.

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