Saturday, January 28, 2012

B is also for ... Belenus

So, who is Belenus, exactly?

In the mundane world, Belenus (aka Bel) is my almost 9yr old orange tabby.  Affectionately known as my Grumpy Old Man.  He's been with since he was about 6wks old, and got his name from a deck of Tarot cards I acquired recently before he came into my life.  He is named after the Warrior of Fire card in The Shapeshifter Tarot by D.J. Conway, Lisa Hunt and Sirona Knight.  Though he has never shown any indication toward being a familiar, he has, nonetheless, been a companion and a light for me, especially going through some difficulties.  Bonus- he actually seems to like babies and small children, as well as dogs!
These are all my cats, from left to right: Belenus, Taliesin, Nyla, Atlas, Willow  (not the greatest pic, but the best I could find at the moment)

Now, who is Belenus the god?

This is a little trickier to answer.  There doesn't seem to be much written about him, as he is primarily a Celtic god, and most of their traditions were passed down orally rather than written down for future generations.  Here is what I've been able to piece together:

The name Belenus means "Shining One", or perhaps "bright" or "brilliant".  He is a god of light, the sun and of fire.  He is often seen as a god of healing, crops and herds, protection, good luck and fertility.

Belenus is an unusual Celtic god in that his worshippers were so widespread.  References to Belenus have been found in many places, from Northern Italy, to Southern Gaul, Britain, the Alps, Rome, Spain, Scotland, Austria, France, and others.  There have been many carvings and other offerings dedicated to Belenus found at healing shrines.

Belenus is married to the goddess Belisama, whose name means "Summer Bright". While she is also associated with fire and light, her domain includes rivers, lakes and watercraft.

The Sabbat most commonly associated with Belenus is Beltane.  Now celebrated on May 1, there are suggestions that historically this holy day was recognized on the first full moon in Taurus.  Beltane marked the beginning of the summer season.  At this time, huge bonfires would be lit, and herds would be driven between two fires for purification and protection on their way to summer feeding grounds.  It is also said that healing plants gathered on Beltane have extra power.

There are many names often associated with Belenus.  He is sometimes called Belenus-Apollo, and is equated with Apollo in Roman-Celtic regions.  Both solar deities, given the functions of healer and protector, Belenus has been called the Celtic Apollo.  Perhaps lending credence to the claim that these two gods are the same is Belenus' connection to Belisa, the name of a Henbane plant known to have psychoactive properties.  This connection may be correlated to Apollo's relation with the Oracle at Delphi.  There has been a suggestion that Belenus may also have had a horse-drawn chariot like Apollo, but there is not substantial evidence of this.

There are also connections to the gods Bile, Beli and Beli Mawr, though these gods are more closely linked to death, the underworld and ancestors, than to the sun.  Belenus has a tenuous link to the Egyptian god Ba'al, the theory being that myths and stories were carried by travelers between the regions.  Though there is a claim that this connection has been dismissed, I found nothing to back this up.  Additionally, there is an occasional depiction of Belenus riding a horse and throwing thunderbolts, connecting him to Jupiter and Zeus.

The only legend I could locate regarding Belenus is from the writings of Herodianos.  He wrote that when Maximus attacked Aquileia in 238BCE, it was prophesied that Belenus would protect the town.  In histories of the battle, the emperor's soldiers reported seeing an image of the god above the city, intervening on behalf of his followers.

In Wales, the Cymric tribe name Catuvellauni means "The Host of Belenus"; while their most well-known leader Cassivellaunos' name means "The Devotee of Belenos".  The name of the leader during the Claudian invasion of Britain, Cunobelinos, means "The Hound of Belenus".

Various spellings and versions of Belenus:

Belenus, Belanus, Belenos, Belanos, Belinus, Belinos, Belennos, Belinu, Belanu, Belus, Belan, Belen, Belyn, Bel, Beli, Bile, Ba'al, Belatucadros, Beltene, Bryth, Cym

According to one source (the reference for which I've misplaced, so if anyone recognizes it, please let me know!) "Belenos' name is derived from the reconstructed proto-Celtic elements *belo- (bright/shining), the deicific particle -n- and the maculine ending -os.  Thus Belenos is 'The Shining God'."

Associations for Belenus
Solar deity: sun, fire, light
Functions: healing, protection, crops and herds, good luck, fertility
Symbols: horses, the wheel, sometimes thunderbolts
Colors: yellow, green, white
Plants: wildflowers, Henbane, healing plants


  1. How sweet and appropriate that he is orange and was named after such a bright god ;-)

  2. Great post! :) Would love to see a pic of your furbaby :))) Enjoyed reading this as I wasn't familiar with Belenus before :))) Blessings

  3. This is great! I think I now feel more connected to Beltane than ever before! I love learning about Gods I've never heard of before :) I think I shall learn more about him.