Belenus (Belenos) is a “Sun God” in Celtic mythology;
Belenus and Belenos means “the Shining God”. He was worshipped as a Sun God by the Celts across Continental Europe, Britain and Ireland and is regarded by modern historians as a common Celtic god. The term “Sun God” describes Belenus in the context of an important pastoral deity who was associated with the restorative and healing powers of the sun. The Irish festival of Beltaine or the “Fires of Bel” was held on first of May and fires were lit to encourage the Sun’s heat. Cattle were purified by herding them between these fires before being put out to pasture.
The festival marked the beginning of summer in Ireland. The ritualistic purpose of such festivals in Ireland and Europe was to ask for the god’s help in encouraging the crops to grow and protect the herds of cattle from disease. The festival of Beltane was one of the most important festivals in Celtic culture. The Beltane Festival is still celebrated in Scotland and Ireland as as an artistic festival on the traditional date of 30th April or 1st May. Belenos was usually depicted riding the sun across the sky in a horse drawn chariot. A model horse and chariot carrying a sun-disc was found in Denmark and thought to be a representation of Belenus.
Other representations include Belenus riding a horse throwing thunder-bolts while using his wheel as a shield. The wheel, a head with solar rays, and halos are all associated with Belenus as his symbols. The goddess Belisama in Gaul is sometimes shown as the consort of Belenus.
Healing shrines with a duel Roman association to the god Apollo and Belenus, such as the one found in Sainte-Sabine in Burgundy, demonstrates the god’s association with healing and regeneration. Objects in the shape of limbs found at Sainte-Sabine suggest they were left as a payment for the prayers which were offered. Clay horses were also discovered and are thought to be representations of Belenus. Shrines to Belenus have been also found at Inveresk in Scotland and Bourbon-Les-Bains in France, which was apparently named after him.
The cult of Belenus spread from Italy to Gaul, modern day Austria, Britain and Ireland. The thirty one or more archaeological finds in Europe, Britain and Ireland are the most found for any Celtic god. These finds demonstrate not only the importance the cult of Belenus but that he was a common god in Celtic culture until the introduction of Christianity.
The most famous and most numerous finds of Belenus were inscriptions dedicated to him from the emperors Maximian and Diocietian in Aquileia in Italy. References were made to Belenus by Roman historians, such as Herodianos in 278BC, who described Roman soldiers seeing an image of Belenus (the protector of the city) in the sky during the siege of Aquileia by the emperor Maximus. Tertullian mentions the worship of Belenus in the Norican Alps in 4AD.
Archaeological evidence of Belenus also include a coin found in 1AD depicting Belenus with large brown eyes, a heavy moustache and his hair shown in a corona representing the rays of the sun. A carved piece of jewellery found in Nimes (France) depicts Belenus as an old man wearing a tunic with solar symbols and an inscription.
Julius Caesar apparently referred to Belenus as the god Apollo and this association was common throughout the Celtic-Roman world. A number of gods in other countries were based on him such as Beli, the god of death, in Welsh mythology and Belatucadros whose cult flourished in northern England. The god Bile in Irish Celtic mythology is credited with being another incarnation of Belenus.
In Medieval times, Beli Mawr, a mythological king in Britain, was apparently the basis of Pellinor, the father of Sir Perceval in Arthurian legends. Belenus’s influence can still be found in modern day Europe. For example the name Llywelyn is thought to be a combination of the god Lugus and Belenus. Billinsgate in England is also thought to named after the god.
Modern reference to the God Belenus, or Bel in other cultures, include the celebration of Beltane, a time on the Wheel of the Year calendar to celebrate the Union of the Lord and Lady that created the Universe and all things in it. In honor of our upcoming holiday, Belenus if the perfect God for you to learn more about at this time.
*This information obtained from celtsandmyths.mzzhost.com and edited or enhanced by yours truly. Have a Blessed Beltane!