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.
It is the animal of Celtic ritual feasts and food for the gods, esteemed the fitting food for gods and heroes. He was sacrificed as the Yule pig with an apple in his mouth, and his blood begot gods both east and west, in the primitive times when men still believed that only blood could generate offspring because that seemed to be how women did it. Figures of boars appeared on British and Gaulish altars and warriors of northern Europe crested their helmets and their swords with the boar’s image. Britain still has a number of ‘Boar’s Head’ inns and taverns, suggesting that in pre-Christian times the heads of sacrificed animals were preserved as oracular fetishes just like the heads of deified ancestral heroes.
Boars symbolise courage and strong warriors. There are many examples of supernatural boars and their adventures in the literary traditions of the Irish and the Welsh. The otherworld feast is supposed to be sustained by magical pigs which, no matter how many times they are cooked and eaten, are alive again the next day to be cooked again.
The boar’s head signifies health and preservation from danger, it contains the power of the life-force and vitality. The boar and the Bear together represent Spiritual and Temporal Power. The boar is often depicted in association with the tree, wheels and ravens. Bones were found placed ritually in graves, the head, again, being of special importance.In Irish myth there are divine, magical and prophetic boars, and supernatural and otherworld pigs which bring death and disaster. In Celtic saga there are also the magical Pigs of Manannan and other legends (see Swine), according to which eating the flesh restored health and happiness. The boar was ritually hunted and slain and there are many accounts of a Great Boar hunted by a hero.
Twrch Trwyth was a king turned into a boar who appears in the MABINOGION as a devastating foe to Arthur and his kingdom eventually he was was chased by Arthur and his warriors across Ireland, Wales and Cornwall, where it disappeared into the sea. A Gaulish god is depicted with a boar and sculptures of boars are found in Celtic forts and in France and Portugal. Druids called themselves boars, probably as solitary dwellers in the forest.
In addition to representing fertility and wealth, boars symbolize courage and strong warriors (MacCulloch, 356) for they are strong, dangerous, and very hard to kill. Their appearance in dreams and visions also indicates warriors. Isolt’s forewarning of the death of Tristan, a great warrior, came in a dream about the death of a great boar (Spector, 85-86). Statues of boars are occasionally found in the company of statues of armed warriors, (Powell, 176) further indicating an association between boars and warriors.
Great importance is attached to the bristles of the boar. Perhaps they are the distinguishing characteristic of the animal or symbolize its strength. For example, Fion is killed by stepping on a boar’s bristle after breaking a geasa against hunting boars. Some of the extraordinary boars, that King Arthur fights in Culhwch and Olwen, have bristles that are gold or silver. Conversley, when Menw tries to steal treasures from Twrch Trwyth, he is only able to take a bristle. The pig herders at the start of the Táin, Friuch and Rucht, are named after the bristle and the grunt of the boar, respectively. It is the bristle of the boar, Friuch, that proves to have the most power; in the end, Friuch reborn as Donn Cuilnge destroys Rucht as Finnebach Ai. The bristles of the boar are mentioned many other times implying that they are an important part of the animal.