Lugus was a deity apparently worshipped widely in antiquity in the Celtic-speaking world. His name is rarely directly attested in inscriptions, but his importance can be inferred from placenames and ethnonyms, and 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 linguistic descendants, Irish Lugh and Welsh Lleu Llaw Gyffes.


The name "Lugus" is not directly attested by inscriptions, but a number of inscriptions with what are interpreted as plural forms of the name ("Lugoues" in Avenches, Switzerland and Osma, Spain, the latter dedicated by a guild of shoemakers,Alexei Kondratiev, [ "Lugus: the Many-Gifted Lord"] , "An Tríbhís Mhór: The IMBAS Journal of Celtic Reconstructionism #1", 1997] "Lucubo", "Locoubu" and "Lucubo(s)" in the Iberian Peninsula)Francisco Marco Simón, [ "Religion and Religious Practices of the Ancient Celts of the Iberian Peninsula"] , [ E-Keltoi Vol 6] , 2007] are known. An inscribed lead plate found in Chamalières in France includes the phrase "luge dessummiíis", which has been tentatively interpreted as "I prepare them for Lugus". [ [ Lugus: The Gaulish Mercury] at [] . P.-Y. Lambert leaves this phrase partially untranslated, "Que tu ... à ma droite" ("May you ... to my right"), [ cited at "L'Arbre Celtique"] .]

Toponyms and ethnonyms

His name was commemorated in numerous place-names, such as Lugdunum (Celtic "*Lugdūnon" or "*Lugudūnon", "fort of Lugus"; modern Lyon, France), capital of the Roman province of Gallia Lugdunensis. Other such place-names include Lugdunum Clavatum (modern Laon, France) and Luguvalium [The usual emended spelling Luguvallium appears to be wrong, according to Kenneth Jackson, ("On Some Romano-British Place-Names" "The Journal of Roman Studies" 38.1 and 2 (1948, pp. 54-58) p 57), offering Bede's "Lugovalium", as "Town of Lugovalos", that is, "those strong as Lugos", accepted by A.M. Armstrong, et al. "The Place-Names of Cumberland", (Cambridge University Press) 1950-53.] (modern Carlisle, England) It is also possible that Lucus Augusti (modern Lugo in Galicia, Spain) is derived from the theonym Lugus, [*García Quintela, Marco V. (et al.) "Souveraineté et sanctuaires dans l'Espagne celte. Études comparées d'historie et d'Archéologie. "Memoires de la Societé Belge d'Etudes Celtiques" 17 (2003) (Brussels) ] but Lucus in that place may in fact be purely Latin ("lucus" = "sacred grove/forest").

Other places which are likely named after him include:

* Lugo in Italy
* Lugo in Spain
* Loudun and Montluçon in France;
* Loudoun in Scotland;
* Dinlleu in Wales;
* Leiden in the Netherlands;
* Lugano in Switzerland;
* Lugones and Lugo de Llanera, both in Asturias, Spain (territories once inhabitated by the "Luggones" Astur tribe).

Ethnonyms which may derive from Lugus include the Luggones of Asturias, [ [ on stone: "Asturum et Luggonum"] found in Piloña, Asturias, early Astur-Roman period. The stone is now in the Archaeological Museum of Asturias in Oviedo.] and the "Lougei", known from inscriptions in Lugo and El Bierzo/

Gaulish Mercury

Julius Caesar in his "De Bello Gallico" identified six gods worshipped in Gaul, by the usual conventions of "interpretatio Romana" giving the names of their nearest Roman equivalents rather than their Gaulish names. He said that "Mercury" was the god most revered in Gaul, describing him as patron of trade and commerce, protector of travellers, and the inventor of all the arts. [Julius Caesar, "Commentarii de Bello Gallico" ] 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. Mercury's importance is supported by the more than 400 inscriptions into him in Roman Gaul and Britain. Such a blanket identification is optimistic – Jan de Vries [Jan de Vries, "Celtisches Religion" (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer) 1961, pp 40-56.] demonstrates the unreliability of any one-to-one concordance in the "interpretatio Romana" [Peter Buchholz, "Perspectives for Historical Research in Germanic Religion" "History of Religions" 8.2 (November 1968, pp. 111-138) p 120 and note. ] – but the available parallels are worth considering.


The iconography of Gaulish Mercury includes birds, particularly ravens and the cock, now the emblem of France; horses; the tree of life; dogs or wolves; a pair of snakes (cf Hermes's Caduceus); mistletoe; 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"); and bags of money. He is often armed with a spear. He is frequently accompanied by his consort Rosmerta ("great provider"), who bears the ritual drink with which kingship was conferred (in Roman mythology. Unlike the Roman Mercury, who is always a youth, Gaulish Mercury is occasionally also represented as an old man.


Gaulish Mercury is associated with triplism : sometimes he has three faces, sometimes three phalluses, which may explain the plural dedications. This also compares with Irish myth. In some versions of the story Lug was born as one of triplets, and his father, Cian ("Distance"), is often mentioned in the same breath as 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.

Rübekeil [Rübekeil, Ludwig. "Wodan und andere forschungsgeschichtliche Leichen: exhumiert", Beiträge zur Namenforschung 38 (2003), 25–42.] suggests that Lugus was a triune god, comprising Esus, Toutatis and Taranis, the three chief deities mentioned by Lucan (who, at the same time, 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 "Wodinaz".

acred sites

High places ("Mercurii Montes"), including Montmartre, the Puy-de-Dôme and the Mont de Sène, were dedicated to him. In Christian times he seems to have been assimilated into the archangel Michael, and many of the former "Mercurii Montes" became "St Michael's Mounts".

Continuity in later Celtic narratives

In Ireland, Lugh was the victorious youth who defeats the monstrous Balor "of the venomous eye". He was the godly paradigm of priestly kingship, and another of his appellations, "lámhfhada" “of the long arm”, carries on an ancient Proto-Indo-European image of a noble sovereign expanding his power far and wide. His festival, called Lughnasadh (“Festival of Lugh”) in Ireland, was commemorated on 1 August. When the Emperor Augustus inaugurated Lugdunum ("fort of Lugus", now Lyon) as the capital of Roman Gaul in 18 BC, he did so with a ceremony on 1 August (this may be purely coincidental, however). At least two of the ancient Lughnasadh locations, Carmun and Tailtiu, were supposed to enclose the graves of goddesses linked with terrestrial fertility.

Lugus has also been suggested as the origin not only of Lugh and Llew Llaw Gyffes, but also the Arthurian characters Lancelot and Lot. The relationship with the former is no longer widely accepted.

Foreign parallels

It has been suggested that the Germanic deity Wotan (English Woden) was influenced by Gaulish Mercury (see "triplism" above), and his name is possibly reflected in Germanic Loki. There is no one-to-one correspondence between Germanic and Celtic gods.


The contemporary compilation of etymological lexica at the universities of Leiden and Wales [ [ University of Wales' Proto-Celtic Lexicon] ] The [ Indo-European Etymological Dictionary] Failed verification|date=January 2008 suggest that this name is derived from Proto-Celtic *"Lug-u-s", but this Proto-Celtic lexeme exhibits great ambiguity in its semantics both in Proto-Celtic and in Proto-Indo-European.

For many years linguists derived the name "Lugus" from the Proto-Indo-European root "*leuk-", "light", and thus he was considered a sun god. This etymology is problematic because Proto-Indo-European *"k" did not under any known circumstances become *"g"- in Proto-Celtic, but remained *"k". The direct descendent of the Proto-Indo-European root *"leuk-" (‘white light’) in Proto-Celtic is *"leuk-" as in the name of the Celtic lightning god Leucetios. So if one applies the principles of Occam's razor, *"leuk-" is not the most plausible etymology. To get round this some have suggested that PIE "*leuk" had a variant form "*leug-," which could indeed have produced a Common Celtic "*lug-").

The Proto-Celtic lexeme "*Lug-u-s" may be related to the initial morpheme in the Proto-Celtic "*lug-rā" ‘moon’ (sometimes proposed as the proto-form behind Welsh "lloer," though Peter Schrijver [Schrijver, Peter, "Studies in British Celtic Historical Phonology", "Leiden Studies in Indo-European" 5. Amsterdam/Atlanta (Rodopi) 1995.] suggests an alternative etymology for "lloer," from Common Celtic *lus-rā, where the root would be cognate with that of Latin "luridus" [earlier "*lus-idus"] "pale yellow"). Another possibility is Proto-Indo-European "*leug-" meaning "blackness, dimness, darkness" (thought by Pokorny to be the root of the ill-attested Gaulish word "lugos" ‘raven’), or "*leug-" ‘swamp, peat-bog’. Proto-Celtic "*Lug-u-s" may equally be related to Proto-Celtic "*lug-" meaning "oath, pledging, assurance" on the one hand and "deceive" on the other (derived from Proto-Indo-European *"leugh-" ‘avowal, deception’). Juliette Wood interprets his name as deriving from Proto-Celtic *lug-, "oath", which would support this identification of Mercury as a god of contracts.

The name may also be related to Old Irish "lug" "lynx", perhaps indicating the existence of a Proto-Celtic root that denoted an animal with "shining eyes", from PIE "*leuk-" "to shine" (compare Greek lunx "lynx", perhaps from a zero-grade form "*luk-" with infixed nasal).

This god’s name may also be related to Latin "lugubris" "mournful, pertaining to mourning," from "lugere" "to mourn," from a Proto-Indo-European base "*leug-" "to break" (cf. Greek "lygros" "mournful, sad," Sanskrit "rujati" "breaks, torments," Lettish "lauzit" "to break the heart").

ee also

* Triple deities



*Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum [CIL] , Vol XIII: Inscriptiones trium Galliarum et Germaniarum Latinae
*Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum [CIL] , Vol II: Inscriptiones Hispaniae Latinae.
*Recueil des Inscriptions Gauloises [RIG] , Tome 1: Textes gallo-grecs (CNRS, Paris, 1985)
*Ellis, Peter Berresford, "Dictionary of Celtic Mythology"(Oxford Paperback Reference), Oxford University Press, (1994): ISBN 0-19-508961-8
*Stifter, David, 'Celtiberian "-unei, Luguei",' "Die Sprache" 39/2 (2000 [1997] ), 213–223.

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