Animal Symbolism in Celtic Mythology

hey was doing some research on celtic mythlore and came across some interesting facts that could be used within the confines of a Slaine game. Here is some of what I've read and maybe give some ideas.

Toothhill pay attention since I'm counting on you to come up with something based on this (if you haven't already! :p )

Animals in Celtic and Welsh mythology are tied in with fertility and vitality, because they are living, moving, and growing. They also provide vitality and continued life for the tribes through their meat, skins, and bones. In addition, they are a connection to the realm of spirits and the gods. This connection is seen through their use in the hunt, search for secrets and wisdom.

Specific animals have specific associations depending on the characteristics of the type of animal. Birds, fish, serpents, deer, cattle, swine, and so on all tend to be used as symbols. Boars, fishes, serpents, birds, and herd animals are the most frequently described.

In addition to representing fertility and wealth, boars symbolize courage and strong warriors for they are strong, dangerous, and very hard to kill. Their appearance in dreams and visions also indicates warriors. Statues of boars are occasionally found in the company of statues of armed warriors, further indicating an association between boars and warriors.

Fish, salmon in particular, are associated with knowledge. Their wisdom can also be passed on by eating. The magic salmon gain the power of wisdom by consuming the hazel nuts that drop into sacred springs. By symbolically eating the salmon of wisdom, Demne gained such enormous wisdom that he was renamed (Ford, 20). Perhaps this is at the root of the modern practice where children are told to eat fish to increase their intelligence.

Serpents and dragons symbolize trouble. Whenever they appear, strife and infertility follow. Dragons should be particularly troubling to a king, because the king is the symbol of the fertility of the tribe and its land and the dragons are the counter symbol, laying waste to the land and preventing new growth.

Birds are usually used to represent prophetic knowledge, bloodshed, and skill. In an omen, birds can be either the message or the messenger. The interpretation of their calls and movements can lead to knowledge of future events. Birds, especially ravens and crows, usually presage bloodshed and battle, when they are associated with it, sticking with the theme of prophesy.

Horses, cattle, and pigs represent fertility. Horse, cattle, and pig bones are found in Welsh and Celtic graves, indicating that they were very important to those cultures. The prosperity of the clan is reflected in the prosperity of its herds. Cattle were a major Celtic food source and as such, would be proportionally important to the success and survival of the tribe.

Later, pigs became added to the diet of the Irish. Horses were also seen to symbolize fertility. Davidson described rituals where the leader of the tribe mated with a horse. The bull, which is the leader of the cattle, symbolized the herd and its fertility just as the king would symbolize the clan and its fertility, thus joining the fertility of the horse with the tribe's.

Spirits and supernatural beings also take animal forms to guard something. According to Celtic myths, each holy place generally has a spirit guardian in the form of an animal. Each well, a spring, a river, a mound, or a grove often is likely to have its own spirit. Water places would have a guardian in the form of a fish.

The most frequently used animal symbols of the boar, fish, serpent, bird, and herd animals are closely connected with the physical well being of the tribe. Divination of future events and past wisdom can be gained through proper use of animals. Very powerful opponents take the shapes of animals for extra power. Spirits and supernatural beings also take animal forms, often temporarily, before being reborn to guard a land or clan and thus its fertility. Thus, animals symbolize the essence of fertility and vitality in Welsh and Celtic mythology.

**Some snipits from A paper for Religion 375 at the University of Michigan
by Lars Noodén, 22 November 1992***

but I know alot of this is covered in some aspect within the Slaine rpg but still this does open the door for some ideas. Just saw this and cut and pasted some interesting points. Anyone use this aspect in their games?
yes I do use somthing like this with star signs (borrowing from EA star magic)also like and use shapechangers within a theme(evil warriors who are also boars or witches cursed too be a swan during daylight)Have got some creatures based on this and was in the process on cleaning up notes too send them too matt.hope that helps :)
Thought so. heh sounds great yeah I will very much be adding this sort of thing to my game I'm currently putting together. Very interested in seeing some of your work.
in the mean time try the brilliant Celtic beasts (animal motifs and zoomorphic design in Celtic Art)by courtney davies full of brilliant ideas
ISBN 0 7137 2727 6
Some good books to research with since I have been working on having animals and the spiritual influences they have being one of the major focuses in my game that I'm working on now that will be run after my Buffy game is finished.

Any suggestions as to go about it or how others treat this in their games?
found that being a great fan of low level games with strong myths have the party aid one group like the bear spirits against say a priest of the anicent snake cult.Good guys get help from the good woodland creatures and the enemies turn into snakes and send giant spiders to kill them sounds fun to me 8)