Lugus is a god of the Celtic pantheon. His name is rarely directly attested in inscriptions, but his importance can be inferred from place names and ethnonyms and status as king of the gods. His nature and attributes are deduced from the distinctive iconography of Gallo-Roman inscriptions to Mercury, who is widely believed to have been identified with Lugus, and from the quasi-mythological narratives involving his later cognates, Welsh Lleu Llaw Gyffes (Lleu of the Skillful Hand) and Irish Lugh Lámhfhada (Lugh of the Long Arm).
The etymology of the name is debated. Besides the Gaulish Lugos (pl. Lugoues, Lugouibus), the deity is attested in Old Irish Lug (Ogham: Lugu-), Middle Welsh Llew, and Celtiberian Luguei, which may point to a Common Celtic origin of the cult. A Proto-Celtic compound *Lugu-deks ('serving the god Lugus') can also be reconstructed from Gaulish Lugudeca, Old Irish Lugaid, and Hispano-Celtic Luguadici. The Lugunae, goddesses attested to in Atapuerca (Burgos), are also linguistically related.
The Proto-Celtic root *lug- has been tentatively derived from several different Proto-Indo-European roots, including *leug- ('black'), *leuǵ- ('to break'), and *leugʰ- ('to swear an oath'). It was once thought to be derived from PIE *leuk- ('to shine'), but most modern scholars rule this out, notably because Proto-Indo-European *-k- never produces Proto-Celtic *-g-.
According to linguist Xavier Delamarre, "it is not certain that there is an appellative behind this theonym; it is likely, given its presumed antiquity, that it is an unmotivated idionym (or that it has become so), possibly subject to various 'folk etymologies', one of the best known being Lugdunum = 'desideratum montem' from the Vienna glossary."
Use in proper names
The theonym Lugu- is the source of the place names Lugu-dunon ('Lugus' fortress'), at the origin of Lyon, Loudon, Laudun, Laon, Lea, and perhaps Leiden; *Lugu-ialon ('Lugus' village'), at the origin of Ligueil; as well as Lugu-ualion ('Place of Lugus-Sovereign'), the ancient name of Carlisle. Lucus Augusti (modern Lugo in Galicia, Spain) may be derived from the theonym Lugus, though perhaps from Latin lucus ('grove') cannot be ruled out.
It is also in the personal names Lugu-dunolus, Lugu-uec[ca], Lugius, Lugissius, Lugu-rix, and Lugiola. The female name Lugu-selua, meaning 'Lugus's possession', can be compared with the Greek personal name Theodulus ('God's slave'). In Insular Celtic are found the Brythonic Louocatus (< *Lugu-catus) and Old Welsh Loumarch (< *Lugu-marcos 'Lugus' stallion').
Ethnonyms which may derive from Lugus include the Luggoni (or Lougonoi) of Asturias, as well as the Lougei, known from inscriptions in Lugo and El Bierzo. The Lougoi of Scotland might also be related.
- ENI OROSEI VTA TICINO TIATVNEI TRECAIAS TO LVGVEI ARAIANOM COMEIMV ENI OROSEI EQVEISVIQVE OGRIS OLOCAS TOGIAS SISTAT LVGVEI TIASO TOGIAS
Additionally, the name is attested several times in the plural, for example: nominative plural Lugoues in a single-word (and potentially Gaulish) inscription from Avenches, Switzerland, on the capital of a Corinthian column, and dative plural in a well-known Latin inscription from Uxama (Osma), Spain:
- Lugovibus sacrum L. L(icinius) Urcico collegio sutorum d(onum) d(at)
- "Lucius Licinius Urcico dedicated this, sacred to the Lugoves, to the guild of shoemakers"
The plural form of the theonym is also found in Latin inscriptions:
Lugo, Galicia, Spain:
- Luc(obo) Gudarovis Vale[r(ius)] Cle.[m](ens) v(otum) l(ibens) s(olvit)
- Rufina Lucubus v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito)
An inscribed lead plate found in Chamalières in France includes the phrase luge dessummiíis, which has been tentatively interpreted by some scholars as "I prepare them for Lugus", though it may also mean "I swear (luge) with/by my right (hand)".
Julius Caesar in his De Bello Gallico identified six gods worshipped in Gaul, giving the names of their nearest Roman equivalents rather than their Gaulish names (interpretatio romana). He said "Mercury" was most revered: patron of trade and commerce, protector of travellers, and inventor of all the arts. The Irish god Lug bore the epithet samildánach ("skilled in all arts"), which has led to the widespread identification of Caesar's Mercury as Lugus. There are frequent (over 400) inscriptions referencing Gaullish Mercury from the subsequent Roman Gaul and Britain. The blanket identification of Lugus with Mercury may go too far; Jan de Vries demonstrates the unreliability of any one-to-one correspondence in the interpretatio romana.
The iconography of Gaulish Mercury includes birds, particularly the raven and the cock (now the emblem of France); horses; the tree of life; dogs or wolves; a caduceus, or herald's staff topped with a pair of snakes; mistletoe; and bags of money. A widespread attribute is shoes: one of the dedications to the Lugoves was made by a shoemakers' guild; Lugus's Welsh counterpart Lleu (or Llew) Llaw Gyffes is described in the Welsh Triads as one of the "three golden shoemakers of the island of Britain". He is often armed with a spear. He is frequently accompanied by his consort Rosmerta ("great provider"), who bears the libation with which kingship was conferred (in Roman mythology). Unlike the Roman Mercury, who is typically a youth, Gaulish Mercury is occasionally also represented as an old man. It has also been speculated that the Irish leprechaun shares the same root (le- from Lu-), and notably leprechauns were often represented as shoemakers.
Gaulish Mercury is associated with triplism: sometimes he has three faces, sometimes three phalluses, which may explain the plural dedications. In some Irish versions of the story, Lug was born as one of triplets, and his father Cian (Distance) is often mentioned, along with his brothers Cú (Hound) and Cethen (meaning unknown), who nonetheless have no stories of their own. Several characters called Lugaid, a popular medieval Irish name thought to derive from Lug, also exhibit triplism: for example, Lugaid Riab nDerg ("of the Red Stripes") and Lugaid mac Trí Con ("Son of Three Hounds") both have three fathers.
Ludwig Rübekeil suggests that Lugus was a triune god, comprising Esus, Toutatis and Taranis, the three chief deities mentioned by Lucan (who however makes no mention of Lugus); and that pre-Proto-Germanic tribes in contact with the Celts (possibly the Chatti) moulded aspects of Lugus into the Germanic god Wōdanaz, i.e. that Gaulish Mercury influenced Germanic Mercury.
Continuity in later Celtic narratives
In Ireland, Lugh was the victorious youth who defeated the monstrous Balor "of the venomous eye". He was the paradigm of holy or priestly kingship, and his epithet lámhfhada “of the long arm”, carries on an ancient Proto-Indo-European image of a noble sovereign spreading his power far and wide (cf. "the long arm of the law"). His festival, called Lughnasadh ("Festival of Lugh") in Ireland, was commemorated on 1 August.
His name survives in the village of Louth (anciently Lughmhagh, "Lug's plain") and the County Louth in which it stands. When the Emperor Augustus inaugurated Lugdunum ("fort of Lugus", now Lyon) as the capital of Roman Gaul in 18 BC, he held the ceremony on 1 August (also the date of Augustus' victory over Cleopatra at Alexandria). At least two ancient Lughnasadh locations, Carmun and Tailtiu, were supposed to enclose the graves of agricultural fertility goddesses.
The Celtic Lugh and Lleu Llaw Gyffes my also have influenced the Arthurian characters Lancelot and Lot (a theory championed most famously by Roger Sherman Loomis), though more recent scholarship has downplayed such links.
- Bas-relief discovered in Paris in 1867 and preserved at the Carnavalet Museum, from J.-L. Courcelle-Seneuil, Les Dieux gaulois d'après les monuments figurés (The Gallic Gods According to the Figurative Monuments), Paris, 1910.
- Maccrossan, Tadhg (May 29, 2002). "Celtic Religion". Llewellyn Worldwide. Retrieved May 30, 2023.
Lugus, like Odin, was king of the gods in the Celtic pantheon, was accompanied by crows and ravens, carried a spear, and closed one eye to do his magic (Odin offered his eye); like the Great Zeus in Hesiod's Theogony, he led the Tuatha Dé Danann gods in victory over the Fomorian giants. Lugh's birth and childhood also parallels that of Zeus.
- Fee, Christopher R. (2004). Gods, Heroes, & Kings. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0190291702.
In The Baile in Scail ("The God's Prophecy") Lugh is seen as a sacred solar king and king of the otherworld, associated with Rosmerta, who is herself a kind of personification of Ireland, sometimes known as "the Sovranty of Ireland." Lugh followed Nuada as king of the gods in Ireland, and was with the mortal Dechtire the father of the great hero Cuchulainn.
- Delamarre 2003, p. 211.
- Matasović 2009, p. 248.
- Koch 2017, pp. 46–47.
- Simón 2005.
- Julius Pokorny, Indogermanisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch, Francke, 1959, 686.
- Bernard Mees, Celtic Curses, Boydell & Brewer, 2009, p. 45.
- H. Wagner, Studies in the Origins of early Celtic Civilisation, Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie, 31, 1970, p. 24.
- Schrijver 1995, p. 348.
- J.E.B. Glover, Allen Mawer, F.M.Stenton (1938). The Place-Names of Hertfordshire. Cambridge University Press.
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- Lejeune, Michel, Celtibérica, Universidad de Salamanca, 1997, pp. 8ff.
- Koch, John, Celtic Culture: a historical encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO, 2006, p.[page needed]
- CIL XIII, 05078
- Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, Vol. 2, Walter de Gruyter, 1974, p. 387, inscription 2818.
- Gruffydd, William John. Math vab Mathonwy, University of Wales Press, 1928, p. 238.
- Gruffydd, William John. Math vab Mathonwy, University of Wales Press, 1928, pp. 237ff.
- Alexei Kondratiev, "Lugus: the Many-Gifted Lord", An Tríbhís Mhór: The IMBAS Journal of Celtic Reconstructionism #1, 1997
- AE 2003, 952
- IRPL, pp. 80-89.
- ILER, p. 868.
- IRPL, pp. 87-88.
- ILER, p. 869.
- CIL XII, 3080
- Lugus: The Gaulish Mercury Archived 2005-03-06 at the Wayback Machine at Mabinogion.info. P.-Y. Lambert leaves this phrase partially untranslated, Que tu ... à ma droite ("May you ... to my right"), cited at L'Arbre Celtique.
- Julius Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Gallico 6.17
- Jan de Vries, Celtisches Religion (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer Verlag) 1961, pp 40-56.
- Peter Buchholz, "Perspectives for Historical Research in Germanic Religion" History of Religions 8.2 (November 1968, pp. 111-138) p 120 and note.
- 2001. Celtic Heroes, Changelings', and the Mothers. (37), pp.93-116.
- Rübekeil, Ludwig. Wodan und andere forschungsgeschichtliche Leichen: exhumiert, Beiträge zur Namenforschung 38 (2003), 25–42.
- Delamarre, Xavier (2003). Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise: Une approche linguistique du vieux-celtique continental. Errance. ISBN 9782877723695.
- Koch, John T. (2017). "Some epigraphic comparanda bearing on the 'pan-Celtic god' Lugus". Celtic religions in the Roman period. Celtic Studies Publications. pp. 37–56. ISBN 978-1891271250.
- Matasović, Ranko (2009). Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic. Brill. ISBN 9789004173361.
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- Simón, Francisco (2005). "Religion and Religious Practices of the Ancient Celts of the Iberian Peninsula". E-Keltoi: Journal of Interdisciplinary Celtic Studies. 6 (1). ISSN 1540-4889.
- Epigraphic evidence
- AE = L'Année épigraphique
- CIL = Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, Vol XIII: Inscriptiones trium Galliarum et Germaniarum Latinae; Vol II: Inscriptiones Hispaniae Latinae.
- ILER = Inscripciones Latinas de la España Romana
- IRPL = Inscriptions Romaines de la Province de Lugo
- Recueil des Inscriptions Gauloises [RIG], Tome 1: Textes gallo-grecs (CNRS, Paris, 1985)
- Alberro, Manuel (2010). "El pancéltico dios Lug y su presencia en España". Polis: Revista de ideas y formas políticas de la Antigüedad (22): 7–30. ISSN 1130-0728.
- de Bernardo Stempel, Patrizia (2008). "Cib. to Luguei 'hacia Lugus' Frente a Luguei 'para Lugus': Sintaxis Y Divinidades En Peñalba De Villastar". Emerita. 76 (2): 181–96. doi:10.3989/emerita.2008.v76.i2.294.
- Ellis, Peter Berresford, Dictionary of Celtic Mythology (Oxford Paperback Reference), Oxford University Press, (1994): ISBN 0-19-508961-8
- Eska, Joseph F. (2006). "Remarks on the Morphology, Phonology and Orthography of Hisp.-Celt. LVGVEI and Related Matters". Emerita. 74 (1): 77–88. doi:10.3989/emerita.2006.v74.i1.6.
- Gricourt, Daniel; Dominique, Hollard (1997). "Le dieu celtique Lugus sur des monnaies gallo-romaines du IIIe siècle". Dialogues d'histoire ancienne (in French). 23 (1): 221–286. doi:10.3406/dha.1997.2334.
- Gricourt, Daniel; Dominique, Hollard (2002). "Lugus et le cheval". Dialogues d'histoire ancienne (in French). 28 (2): 121–166. doi:10.3406/dha.2002.2475.
- Olivares Pedreño, Juan Carlos (2010). "Los Ástures del conventus lucensis y el culto al dios Lug en el noroeste de Hispania" [The Astures del conventus Lucensis and the cult of the god Lug in the North West of Hispania]. Dialogues d'histoire ancienne. 36 (2): 117–136. doi:10.3406/dha.2010.3234. hdl:10045/131629.
- Raydon, Valéry (2015). "Lugnez: Un 'Lugdunum' Oublié Dans Le Jura Tabulaire Suisse". Pallas (97): 121–31. JSTOR 43606249.. Accessed 18 Dec. 2022.
- Raydon, Valéry (2016). "Le cró Logo «enclos de Lug» (Cath Maige Tuired, § 69)" [The cró Logo “Lug’s pen” (Cath Maige Tuired, § 69)]. Études Celtiques. 42: 123–133. doi:10.3406/ecelt.2016.2472.
- Stifter, David (1997). "Celtiberian -unei, Luguei". Die Sprache. 39 (2): 213–223. ISSN 0376-401X.
- Tovar, Antonio. "El dios céltico Lugu en España". In: La religión romana en Hispania. Madrid, Ministerio de Educación Nacional, 1981. pp. 279-282.
- Media related to Lugus at Wikimedia Commons