Celtic God

Taranis

Taranis, the “Thunderer,” was a Celtic storm god, symbolized by a sacred wheel. Wielding a thunderbolt, he was feared for his command of foul weather, and regarded as a protector and leader of the Celtic pantheon.

Taranis, Celtic God of Thunder (3:2)

Top Questions

  • Why was Taranis represented by a wheel?

    The spoked wheel, or chariot wheel, was a symbol associated with the sky, and thunder specifically, in numerous mythologies.

  • Was Taranis a Celtic triple god?

    While Taranis formed a sacred triad with his fellow Celtic gods Teutatis and Esus, he was considered a deity in his own right.

  • Did the Romans worship Taranis?

    The Romans, who conquered much of the ancient Celtic world, also absorbed much of their mythology, syncretizing Taranis with Jupiter, another warlord and thunder god.

Overview

Taranis was the Thunderer, the pan-Celtic god of storms and thunder. Associated with bad weather and sacred wheels, he held an important role in many Celtic pantheons, yet little was known about him.

Etymology

Taranis’ name literally meant “thunder,” appears to have been derived from the Proto-Celtic toranos, and is evidenced in several surviving Celtic languages. His name was similar to many Indo-European thunder gods. Because of his association with the sacred wheel, he was called a “wheel god.”

Attributes

Taranis was a powerful deity, commanding the storms which terrified early man. He was a protector and leader of the gods and, according to the Romans, this made him worthy of human sacrifice. He formed a sacred triad with the gods, Esus and Toutatis, two other important Gaelic deities who were frequently found at sites bearing Taranis’ symbols.

Taranis wielded a powerful thunderbolt as a weapon, not unlike a spear, and his symbol was a wheel, one of the most sacred Celtic symbols found across Europe. The wheel represented mobility, one of the strengths of the ancient Celts, and may have represented just how quickly a storm could catch ancient humans unprepared.

Mythology

Taranis was known to us primarily through the Romans, but also via his connection to other pantheons.

Historical Scholarship

And those who pacify with blood accursed Savage Teutates, Hesus’ horrid shrines, And Taranis’ altars cruel as were those Loved by Diana, goddess of the north -Pharsalia, Book I, Lucan

Taranis was a Celtic god described in several Roman sources, including Pharsalia by the poet, Lucan, though this may have been a creative invocation. Sacred sites found around Europe illustrated his widespread worship (though no evidence of human sacrifice was directed at him), with statues or wheels located in Ireland, Britain, Gaul, Spain, and across the Rhineland and Danube areas of central and eastern Europe.

Other Mythology

Taranis was known in Irish mythology as Tuireann, and played an important part in the story of Lugh, another pan-Celtic deity. He was also related to the Gaulish Ambisagrus. For the Romans, Taranis was associated with both Jupiter and the cyclops, Brontes, whose name similarly means “thunder.”

Other Indo-European thunder gods shared a common etymology with Taranis, most notably the Norse Thor. Baltic deities, such as Perkunas and Slavic Perun, also resembled Taranis’ name.

Pop Culture

Taranis was popular in modern media, including: