Birds in Celtic Mythology

Birds appear across many different mythologies and our strong associations with them and their symbolism is evident in folklore and art through the ages.

Ravens, considered the most intelligent of birds, were revered and feared by Celts, Vikings, Greeks and Romans and they were often depicted as messengers from other worlds.

A renowned Celtic battle goddess, the Morrigan, could transform herself into a raven and was believed to inspire warriors to call upon their inner strength to achieve greatness. When the fearsome warrior, Cú Chulainn, knew that he had been mortally wounded, he tied himself to a large stone so that he could die standing up, facing his enemies. There he remained for three days and no one dared approach him. It was only when the raven perched on Cú Chulainn's shoulder that his enemies knew that he had finally passed away.

In Wales we also have Bran the Raven King, who presented his restorative cauldron to the Irish King as a wedding gift in an effort to make peace, a gift for which he paid the highest price.

In Norse mythology, Odin had his raven familiars Huginn and Muninn, who brought news from all over the world.

Fiacc is Irish for raven and our limited edition Mallon bronze sculpture was inspired by the raven in the tragic Irish legend of Deidre of the Sorrows. We also have a range of prints and cards by local artists based on the same story. Retold by local historian and author, Kevin Johnston you can read it in full HERE

Swans also feature in many stories and artworks, notably the Irish legend of “The Children of Lir”. This famous story tells of four royal children who were transformed into swans by their jealous stepmother. They kept their ability to speak and sing so beautifully that anyone who heard them would stop and listen in wonder. Their transformation lasted nine centuries and was only broken when a bell rang to tell of Saint Patrick bringing Christianity to Ireland. He baptised them and they died peacefully in their human form.

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