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Taranis (Jupiter with wheel and thunderbolt), Le Chatelet, Gourzon, Haute-Marne, France

In Celtic mythology, Taranis (Proto-Celtic: *Toranos, earlier *Tonaros; Latin: Taranus, earlier Tanarus) is the god of thunder, who was worshipped primarily in Gaul, Hispania, Britain, and Ireland, but also in the Rhineland and Danube regions, amongst others. Taranis, along with Esus and Toutatis, was mentioned by the Roman poet Lucan in his epic poem Pharsalia as a Celtic deity to whom human sacrificial offerings were made.[1] Taranis was associated, as was the Cyclops Brontes ("thunder") in Greek mythology, with the wheel.

Gundestrup cauldron, created between 200 BC and 300 AD, is thought to have a depiction of Taranis on the inner wall of cauldron on tile C

Many representations of a bearded god with a thunderbolt in one hand and a wheel in the other have been recovered from Gaul, where this deity apparently came to be syncretised with Jupiter.[2]

Name and etymology[edit]

The Proto-Celtic form of the name is reconstructed as *Toranos ('Thunder'), which derives through metathesis (switch of sounds) from an earlier *Tonaros, itself from the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) stem for 'thunder', *(s)tenh₂-. The original, unmetathesized form of the name is attested in the dative form tanaro (Chester, 154 AD), found on a votive altar dedicated by a Roman officer from Clunia (modern Burgos Province), and in the Gaulish hydronym Tanarus ('thundering' or 'thunderous'), an ancient name of the River Po (northern Italy).[3][4][5] Similar European hydronyms have also been proposed to belong to the same root.[6] The PIE s-initial seems to have been retained in Celtiberian steniontes, stenion, and stena.[4]

In the Indo-European context, the Proto-Celtic name *Tonaros is identical to the Proto-Germanic Thunder-god *Þun(a)raz (cf. ON Þórr, OE Þunor, OS Thunar, OFris. Thuner, OHG Donar), and further related to the Sanskrit stánati and Latin tono, both meaning 'to thunder'.[3][7] According to scholar Peter Jackson, the Celtic–Germanic isogloss *Þun(a)raz ~ *Tonaros may have emerged as the result of the fossilization of an original epithet (or epiclesis) of the Proto-Indo-European thunder-god *Perkwunos.[8]

The later form *Toranos is attested in the Gaulish divine names Taranis and Taranucnos, as well as in the personal name Taranutius. The name Taran, which appears in the prehistoric section of the Pictish King-List, may also be interpreted as a euhemerized god. The Hispano-Celtic tar(a)nekūm could mean 'of the descendants of Tar(a)nos'.[4]

Additional cognates may also be found in medieval Celtic languages, such as Old Irish torann ('thunder, noise'), Old Breton taran, Old Cornish taran, and Middle Welsh taran ('[peal of] thunder, thunderclap'). The Gaulish word for 'thunder' has been preserved in Gascon taram.[7][3][4]

Association with the wheel[edit]

Votive wheels called Rouelles, thought to correspond to the cult of Taranis. Thousands of such wheels have been found in sanctuaries in Belgic Gaul, dating from 50 BC to 50 AD. Musée d'Archéologie Nationale.

The wheel, more specifically the chariot wheel with six or eight spokes, was an important symbol in historical Celtic polytheism, apparently associated with a specific god, known as the wheel-god, identified as the sky- sun- or thunder-god, whose name is attested as Taranis by Lucan.[9] Numerous Celtic coins also depict such a wheel. The half-wheel shown in the Gundestrup cauldron "broken wheel" panel also has eight visible spokes.[citation needed]

Symbolic votive wheels were offered at shrines (such as in Alesia), cast in rivers (such as the Seine), buried in tombs or worn as amulets since the Middle Bronze Age.[10] Such "wheel pendants" from the Bronze Age usually had four spokes, and are commonly identified as solar symbols or "sun crosses". Artefacts parallel to the Celtic votive wheels or wheel-pendants are the so-called Zierscheiben in a Germanic context. The identification of the Sun with a wheel, or a chariot, has parallels in Germanic, Greek and Vedic mythology (see sun chariot).[citation needed]

Later cultural references[edit]

Taranis and Toutatis are often mentioned by characters of the Asterix series.[12]

Taranis and other Celtic gods are often referred to in the EPIX television series Britannia.

In 2013 a British combat drone demonstrator developed by defence contractor BAE Systems was named Taranis in reference to the Celtic god.[13]

MacG Racing have developed a racing car called the Taranis racing in the British Endurance Championship.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ M. Annaeus Lucanus. Pharsalia, Book I Archived 2006-05-02 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Paul-Marie Duval. 2002. Les Dieux de la Gaule. Paris, Éditions Payot.
  3. ^ a b c Matasović 2009, p. 384.
  4. ^ a b c d Koch 2020, pp. 142–144.
  5. ^ Sutrop, Urmas. "Taarapita-the Great God of the Oeselians". In: Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore 26 (2004). p. 40
  6. ^ Pedreño, Juan Carlos Olivares. "Los dioses soberanos y los ríos en la religión indígena de la Hispania indoeuropea". In: Gerión n. 18 (2000). p. 204. ISSN 0213-0181
  7. ^ a b Delamarre 2003, p. 290.
  8. ^ Jackson, Peter (2002). "Light from Distant Asterisks. Towards a Description of the Indo-European Religious Heritage". Numen. 49 (1): 61–102. doi:10.1163/15685270252772777. ISSN 0029-5973. JSTOR 3270472.
  9. ^ Green, Miranda (1992). Symbol and Image in Celtic Religious Art. ISBN 9780415080767.
  10. ^ Green, Miranda Jane (1993). Celtic Myths. ISBN 9780292727540.
  11. ^ "Home_index.HTM". Archived from the original on 2012-04-22. Retrieved 2012-04-22.
  12. ^ Simon, André (1981). "Les Gaulois dans la B.D." Le Débat. 16 (9): 96–108. doi:10.3917/deba.016.0096.
  13. ^ Allison, George (5 February 2014). "Taranis stealth drone test flights successful". UK Defence Journal. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  14. ^ "MacG Racing Taranis". macgracing.co.uk. Retrieved 2022-04-23.


  • Delamarre, Xavier (2003). Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise: Une approche linguistique du vieux-celtique continental. Errance. ISBN 9782877723695.
  • Ellis, Peter Berresford, Dictionary of Celtic Mythology (Oxford Paperback Reference), Oxford University Press, (1994): ISBN 0-19-508961-8
  • Koch, John T. (2020). Celto-Germanic, Later Prehistory and Post-Proto-Indo-European vocabulary in the North and West. University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies. ISBN 9781907029325.
  • MacKillop, James. Dictionary of Celtic Mythology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-19-280120-1.
  • Matasović, Ranko (2009). Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic. Brill. ISBN 9789004173361.
  • Wood, Juliette, The Celts: Life, Myth, and Art, Thorsons Publishers (2002): ISBN 0-00-764059-5

Further reading[edit]

  • Gricourt, Daniel; Hollard, Dominique. "Taranis, caelestiorum deorum maximus". In: Dialogues d'histoire ancienne, vol. 17, n°1, 1991. pp. 343–400. [DOI: https://doi.org/10.3406/dha.1991.1919]; [www.persee.fr/doc/dha_0755-7256_1991_num_17_1_1919]
  • Gricourt, Daniel; Hollard, Dominique. "Taranis, le dieu celtique à la roue. Remarques préliminaires". In: Dialogues d'histoire ancienne, vol. 16, n°2, 1990. pp. 275–320. [DOI: https://doi.org/10.3406/dha.1990.1491]; www.persee.fr/doc/dha_0755-7256_1990_num_16_2_1491

External links[edit]