As a wisdom keeper of the Irish traditions, I’m sometimes asked: “Is there a Celtic Moon Goddess?”. I know that people want a simple answer to this, but like with so much of these traditions, there isn’t one. There is no singular Celtic Moon Goddess, and there are a few primary issues with this question, which are important to identify before I share some wonderful moon goddess wisdom with you.
The first problem with the question is that the notion of “Celtic Goddesses” is at best, missing the mark, and at worst, plain inaccurate. Celtic is a highly problematic term, for reasons that I discuss in my blog post Debunking the word “Celtic” if you’re interested in learning more about this.
But for the purpose of this blog post and simplicity’s sake, what you really need to know is that goddesses are generally much more regionally focused than the broad sweeping term “Celtic” implies. For example, I’ll be sharing wisdom about some of the Irish goddesses in this blog post who have connections with the moon.
Which leads me to the second problem; goddesses from the Celtic Nations are complex. In the Irish tradition (which is my area of expertise) there isn’t a singular goddess for the moon, just as there isn’t a singular goddess for the agriculture, or bodies of water, or love. These ancient goddesses have many different aspects and faces, which is what makes them so fascinating and relatable.
Though there might not be a singular goddess of the moon, there are threads of lunar wisdom woven into a number of different Irish goddesses.
Which leads me to the third and final problem; the moon is not gendered in the Irish tradition and any connections to the goddesses are very tenuous and cryptic. However, I’ve spent quite a bit of time researching and reflecting on the moon in relation to the goddesses and have come to some personal revelations that I’m excited to share with you.
I want to be very clear here that the following information is by no means fact. This is my own personal gnosis, intended to inspire you to deepen your feminine connection with the moon, and if you have any of your own personal revelations that you’d like to share on this topic, please feel free to do so in the comments at the bottom of this blog post!
Áine is a multifaceted Sovereignty Goddess who’s most strongly associated with Co. Limerick, and specifically with the Hill of Áine (Cnoc Áine) and the nearby Lough Gur. Her name is thought to mean ‘brightness’, which is also the meaning of the Irish word gealach which is given to the moon (rooted in the word geal meaning bright). She’s associated with both the moon and the sun, and she’s celebrated on Midsummer’s Eve. She’s also associated with the crops and is considered to be a Faery Woman and a Banshee.
There’s an interesting piece of folklore that connects Áine to healing and the moon, which can be found in the National Folklore Collection:
“On the 6th night of the full moon the people brought their sick close to the lakes so that the moonlight shone brightly on them near the waters of the lake. The old people called this night- “All-Heal” and if a sick person was not better by the 8th or 9th day of the moon he would then hear the “Ceol Side” which “Áine” the bean-sidhe and spirit of Lough Gur would sing or play to comfort the dying.”
She’s also consistently associated with Manannán mac Lir, who is the god of the sea in Irish mythology, and therefore connected to water and the tides, which are influenced by the moon. Sometimes she’s his daughter or foster-daughter, and in other references she is his lover.
Lough Gur, Co. Limerick
Brigid is a goddess who’s not usually thought of as being connected to the moon, however I have a few wisdoms from my own personal gnosis that I’ll share.
Goddess Brigid’s name is thought to mean “Exalted One” or “High One”, and as one of the few pan-Celtic goddesses, she’s very much associated cross-culturally as being very bright in nature, which makes me wonder about her astrological significance.
In “The Book of Dunn Cow,” an ancient Irish text, goddess Brigid’s sacred number is said to be nineteen. Numbers are important in astrology, and the number 19 is associated with both the Moon and Venus.
Nineteen is connected to the Metonic Cycle of the moon. Nineteen is also the number of months in Venus’s synodic cycle (a synodic cycle marks Venus’s journey between her conjunctions with the Sun).
The Moon and Venus also happen to be the two brightest objects in the night sky.
In the book Island of the Setting Sun: In Search of Ireland’s Ancient Astronomers by Anthony Murphy & Richard Moore, they suggest that the conjunction of the crescent Moon and Venus might be represented in Irish mythology as the cow and the calf. The crescent moon looks like the horns of a cow, and the calf would be Venus.
Brigid as goddess Brigid is very much associated with cows (and all livestock/domestic animals). Similarly, St. Brigid was said to have been nursed by a white cow with red ears (an Otherworldly cow) just as Venus is nursed by the crescent moon in the mythic representation of the cow/calf configuration.
I go into much greater detail about this in my blog post Venus, Goddess Brigid, and the Moon.
Venus conjunction with the moon, the calf and the cow.
Continuing the thread of the moon potentially being connected to the cow (given the nature of the moon’s white horns), there is another goddess worth mentioning here.
Boann is a goddess whose name means “Illuminated Cow”, who’s thought to be connected to the Milky Way which is Bealach na Bó Finne in Irish (meaning the “way of the illuminated cow”). However, the illuminated cow reference could also connect her to the crescent moon.
Boann is also very much associated with the Neolithic burial mound of Brú na Bóinne (Newgrange) in the mythology. The old name for this sacred site is Sí in Broga, which Anthony Murphy (mentioned previously) speculates could possibly mean “Womb of the Moon”. In the mythology, Boann conceives Oengus Óg in the burial mound which is womb-like in nature, and we might therefore think of Sí in Broga as Boann’s womb.
Let me further explain the connection between Brú na Bóinne and the moon to help you deepen into this wisdom a little more. Brú na Bóinne is most famously known for being associated with the Winter Solstice, when the midwinter sun shines through the passage of the burial mound and illuminates the innermost chamber. However, the site also marks a number of other important astrological events, and in this way acts as an astrological observatory.
Importantly, one of these observations includes the moon, as there are times during the moon’s 19-year Metonic Cycle when it shares the same declination as the sunrise on Winter Solstice. This means that there are times when the moon can be seen from inside the mound (through the roof box above the entrance) and the moonlight shines into the mound as well.
Sí in Broga, Newgrange, Boann’s womb.
There are a few linguistic clues that I find interesting when considering the Cailleach’s connection to the moon. These are very tentative, but I hope you will find them interesting as I do.
The Cailleach is a prolific crone goddess in Ireland (as well as Scotland and the Isle of Man) and her name is thought to mean old woman, hag, and “veiled one”. The word for the waning moon in Irish is seanghealach, which means the “old moon” and has the appearance of being veiled or hidden.
Also, Venus as the morning star in Irish is caillichín na mochóirighe, meaning “the early rising little hag”. This could potentially link the Cailleach to Venus, and therefore could also relate her to the cow/calf configuration mentioned earlier (with Venus and the crescent moon).
To summarize the wisdom above, again based on my own gnosis, here is a list of the goddesses and their tenuous association with the phases of the moon:
- Áine: the full moon (when the moon is its full brightness) and the half waning moon (based on the reference from the National Folklore Collection).
- Brigid: the crescent moon, and especially the Venus-Moon conjunctions (which always happen during the crescent moon, waning or waxing depending on where Venus is in her cycle as either the morning or evening star).
- Boann: the crescent moon.
- The Cailleach: the waning moon, and the Venus-Moon conjunctions (crescent moon).
One important aspect of the goddesses mentioned above is that they all have strong associations with water. Áine is associated with both Manannán mac Lir and Lough Gur. Brigid is associated with many healing wells throughout Ireland. Boann is associated with the River Boyne (An Bhóinn or Abhainn na Bóinne in Irish, derived from Boann’s name). The Cailleach is very much a water witch and is associated with storms, lakes, wells, floods, etc. This in my mind strengthens their connection to the moon, as the moon has such a powerful influence over water.
I very much encourage you to reflect on this wisdom and feel it in an embodied way. Which of these goddesses do you feel a connection with in relation with the moon? Is there a particular moon phase that really sings to your soul?