According to the Celts, the deer is the oldest animal in existence and it had its own place in Celtic mythology and symbolism. In this article, you will learn some of the associations with the deer and other animals, including hounds and birds.
For starters, the stag was associated with Cernnunos, the horned god of nature and hunting. The totem of the doe represented woodland goddesses, such as Saba and Flidais. The animal as a whole was used to represent abundance, fertility, and rejuvenation. The shape of a deer’s antlers were often likened to trees and served as a symbol for harvesting grain and sowing the land.
Celtic literature made mention of deer in their poetry and folklore, especially the white stag, which was connected to the Otherworld. In literature, the white stag would appear before a significant change took place in the life of a character.
According to Irish and Scottish mythology, hounds were sacred to fairies. Because of this, Celts held the creatures in high regard. Since the dogs had a reputation for being loyal protectors, they served as symbols of devotion, faith, and love for the Celts. Another canine creature that the Celts embraced was the wolf, which represented deep intuition and learning. They were held in higher regard than a hound.
With a large assortment of birds in the world, some of these feathered creatures possessed qualities and characteristics that the Celts admired or recognized. Like many other cultures, the crow was associated with death and dying. Another black-colored bird, the raven, was also seen as a representative of death. The Druids saw the raven as an omen and when it flew over Celtic battlefields, it was viewed as the personification of a god.
The brightly colored and exotic look of the peacock serves as a symbol of purity for the Celts. With their scowling faces and fearless attitude, eagles were looked upon as symbols of nobility, as well as death. The beautiful plumage of the peacock served as a Celtic symbol of purity. Since the heron is a creature that mates for life, the Celts chose the bird as an image for their wedding rings.
In Celtic mythology, heroes and deities have been transformed into cranes in their literature. They became known as a representative of a change that was apparent but not actually real. In literature, the crane is often called as a form of punishment when someone has caused deception. While it was small in stature, the ouzel (a water bird) possessed a determined spirit known for being a protector for itself and its flock. For this reason, the Celts admired the ouzel. One myth involves the Ousel of Cilgwri, who once picked a smith’s hammer down to the size of a small nut.