Since ravens can be taught to speak, and have such a complex vocabulary of their own, they are connected symbolically to both wisdom and prophecy. But in Europe, at least from Christian times, ravens have several strikes against them: black is considered a negative color; ravens are carrion eaters; and they have a symbiotic relationship with man's oldest enemy, the wolf. In many western traditions raven represents darkness, destructiveness and evil. They are sometimes associated with deities of evil and of death. Both witches and the Devil were said to be able to take the shape of a raven.
Owls are one of the oldest species of vertebrate animal in existence, fossils have been found dating back 60 million years, showing the bird to have changed very little in that time. Throughout the history of mankind, the owl has featured significantly in mythology & folklore.
Owls are one of the few birds that have been found in prehistoric cave paintings. Owls have been both revered & feared throughout many civilisations from ancient to more recent times.
As the only poisonous snake in the British Isles the adder has a reputation for wisdom, reincarnation, and cunning. The amulets said to have been carried by the druids, 'gloine nathair' (the glass of the serpent), were really adder stones. If you see a snake while Faerie Vision Questing, be prepared for the power of transformation to enter your life. The snake represents the life-death-birth cycle. It was an adder which caused the Battle of Camlan; while the armies of Mordred and Arthur were drawn up during a parley in which the battle might have been averted, an adder darted out from the scrub, so startling one of Arthur's men that he drew his sword to slay it. Taking the flash of his sword as an instance of Arthur's treachery, Mordred's army attacked. In the Highlands, the adder or serpent is supposed to represent the CAILLEACH'S power, which Brigit defeats with her lamb.
(or Gessa, plur. for Geis) Singular: Geas(gaysh), plural: Gease(gaysha).
Caesar said the goose was sacred to Celtic tribes and was not considered edible, because of her connection with the Sun-Egg. For similar reasons, medieval superstition forbade the killing of a goose in midwinter, when the sun was thought to be in need of maternal care to gain strength for the new seasons. Like other formerly sacred creatures, geese were said to contain souls of the unbaptized (pagans).It was associated with both Celtic and
Teutonic war gods, who were accompanied by a horse and a goose. In Gallic iconography epona, The Divine Horse, is depicted riding on a horned goose.
The Norse did not eat the goose.
In Celtic tradition spirits have been associated with springs and wells from the earliest times. In ancient Gaul the tutelary spirit was occasionally a god, such as Grannos or Borvo: more often the custodian of the healing spring was a fertility goddess, always beautiful, sometimes dangerous, and these female deities have metamorphosed over time into the faeries of popular tradition.
Famed for its tenacity and courage, the badger has entered folklore as the most unyelding animal; significantly, badgerhead sporrans keep a Highlander's loose change safe. The story of Gwawl and Rhiannon shows how an ancient game 'Badger in the Bag' was supposed to have originated, but traces of this custom, called 'Beat the Badger' in Fife, show how it may have been a form of ancient ordeal, a running the gauntlet, where the player ran between a double line of boys wielding sticks.
Badger (Breach): tenacity and courage. The Badger will teach you perseverance and endurance in the face of adversity. The badger is a powerful protector of both material possessions and ideals held close to the heart.
Animal lore explains the saying that children can be ‘licked into shape’. It was once believed that bear cubs were born formless and were literally licked into shape by their mother. Shakespeare knew of the belief, for in Henry VI the crippled Duke of Gloucester is described as an ‘unlick’d bear-whelp’.
In Celtic myth the bear is a lunar power, emblem of the goddess Berne; it also represents Andarta -'Powerful Bear', while the 'Son of the Bear' occurs frequently in Irish and Welsh names. The dual symbolism is also apparent in the Celtic association between the Bear and the Boar, with the Boar as spiritual authority and the Bear as Temporal Power. Although no longer native to these islands, the bear has remained one of Britain's totem beasts at a deep level. An old Gaelic proverb, 'Art an neart', describes a hero as a bear in vigour. Arthur's own name derives from the British 'arth' or bear. The constellation of the Plough or the Great Bear is also called Arthur's Wain.
'Crow' really means a family of closely related carrion-eating birds including the rook, raven, and carrion crow. One of the Goddess's archaic forms, the crone Coronis, was a 'crow' who was transformed into the virgin mother of the physician-god Asclepius; but other, similar forms appeared in myths as harbingers of the hero's death. The Goddess Badb transformed herself into a crow, Badb Catha, to confront the Celtic hero CuChulain and thereby announce his doom. The white crow appears in Celtic lore as Branwen, sister of Bran. Crows can be a form adopted by fairies, usually with ill intent, and are therefore dreaded. Like the raven, crow is primaily associated with battle and death. The Irish for 'crow' is 'badh', a name given to one of the battle-goddesses associated with the Morrighan. The crow exemplifies the function of assimilation and reintegration within the mythic structure.
Cuckoos were thought to bring fine weather, although in Yorkshire it was said to be a sign of rain if they called repeatedly. They also brought good luck or bad luck, depending on what the hearer was doing on hearing the first call of the season. In Wales, it was lucky to hear a cuckoo call while standing on grass, but bad luck if you were on barren ground. Some people believed that if they turned over money in their pockets when a cuckoo called, and then spat on it the money would last till the end of the year. Other said that the hearer would continue to do what they were doing until the end of the year. So if he was in bed, he was probably fated to become ill. Before bird migration was properly understood, many people believed that the cuckoo turned into a hawk during winter, or hibernated in a fairy hill.
The dog or hound has ever been a faithful servant of humanity and this is reflected in British myth and folklore where the dog is frequently one of the helping animals of the hero's search. Arthur's Cabal is one such dog, and Fionn's Bran and Sceolan are others. The dog is important in Celtic myth and appears frequently with hunter-gods, such as Sucellos, the 'Good Striker', and with the Horse-goddess Epona. Dogs were the usual attendants of the Celtic Mother Goddesses. When a god accompanied the Mother, he often took the form of a dog. The Celtic healer god Nodens took on his zoomorphic aspect as a dog. Dogs are associated with the healing waters. Canines have long been associated with Moon deities, especially Crescent New Moon Goddesses. Managarmr (Moondog) was the mightiest of all dog-wolf supernatural beings according to a Norse story.
Birds serve throughout the entire Celtic tradition as symbols of divinity and as messengers and servants of the gods. There was a Celtic belief in malevolent otherworld flocks of birds, which came to bring harm and destruction to villagers in closely regulated season, usually Samhain. The druids used birds as a form of prognosis, the raven was one of great importance. The druids in Gaul fore told the future by observing the flight of certain birds and in Ireland the raven and wren were much used in augury. In Celtic folkore and mythology, birds are heavily associated with death and transformation. Many significant figures were said to not have died, but rather have been transformed into various bords. Some examples of this can be seen below:
The blackbird has ever been one of Britain's most melodious songsters and this is doubtless why the Birds of Rhiannon are said to be three blackbirds: they sing on the branch of the everlasting otherworldly tree which grows in the centre of the earthly paradise. Their singing entranced the hearer, ushering him or her into the Otherworld. They sing for Bran and the Company of the Noble Head, in their feasting between the worlds. The blackbird is also responsible for the finding of Mabon.
Brahan Seer. The wild boar, once commonly hunted throughout the British Isles is now only to be found in remote areas of Europe. The ferocity and cunning of the animal made him a dangerous quarry, yet the art and literature of Celtic peoples attest to his importance in their mythology. The Boar was sacred to the Celtic Goddess Arduinna, patroness of the forests of the Ardennes. Few animals are more important for the Celts than the boar; it was a sacred, supernatural, magical creature, symbolizing the warrior, warfare, the hunt, protection, hospitality and fertility.
Originally the lunar symbol of the Great Mother with the horns representing the Crescent Moon, the bull later came to represent the Sun Gods. However, it was often still connected with a Moon Goddess such as Cybele or Attis.