In Celtic myth tales, hounds are emblematic of courage, extreme loyalty, and honor. Hounds were prized as companions of the hunt and travelers between worlds. Dogs were closely associated with healing.
Gallic gods of healing springs had sacred dogs, and votive offerings to these gods often portrayed dogs and their owners.
Hounds, invariably magical, were the constant companions of many Celtic heroes. Irish Filidh (seers) chewed the meat of a dog in a ritual to gain prophetic vision. To be called “hound” was an honorable nickname for a courageous warrior; the name of the god Cuchulain is literally “Hound of Culann;” violating a geas (sacred taboo) on the eating of dogflesh leads to the hero’s death. The mother of the god Lugh, in whose honor the Lughnassa festival was celebrated, was killed while in the form of a small dog.
|Capital from the Book of Kells in the form of a dog|
Wolves were likewise benign, often appearing as helpers or guides. Wolves were companion to the forest-deity Cernunnos, and appear on the famed Gundestrup cauldron. The Irish king Cormac claimed to have been suckled by wolves, and it was not unknown for entire tribes of Celts to claim descent from wolf-packs. The pack behavior of dogs and wolves was likely viewed as analogous to human tribes; portraits of the ancient mother goddesses often depict dogs suckling beside human infants. More Celtic Symbols