As the name might or might not suggest, I’ve gotten a unique introduction to the life of a Galatis not through the ever-chthonic Cernunnos, but through the shining one known as Belenos.
In modern Gaulish Polytheism, those I call belhounds are far and few between. Several established Gaulish Polytheists have gone as far as simply equate Belenos to an alternative name of Grannus due to His association to the sun, or even still, simply calling the term ‘Shining One’ a title that has been given to several dewoi.
Both these seem incredibly silly to me, but I don’t blame those for drawing those lines. There’s no immediate demand when modern Gauls picture the god, and He might feel a bit similar to modern abrahamic gods and might not carry the exciting, almost alien or primal feel the Others might bring to the table.
First, let’s go over the significance. Belenos was the most wide-spread of the Gaulish gods, found in Iberia, present-day Belgium and northern Italy, Austria, and of course all over Gaul itself. He even landed himself the spot as the national god of Norticum, an independent kingdom in modern northern Italy that later became a Roman Province. In fact, during the siege of Norticum’s capital of Aquileia by the Romans, soldiers reported seeing Belenos defending the city from the air.
According to Jack Lindsay, in his article “Canudos and Beleños”, Belenos was on his way to becoming a high god of the Remi, if he wasn’t already, much like He was in the kingdom Norticum. Not only that, Belenos is one of the oldest truely Gaulish gods. All in all, He’s a big deal.
But now that you know what, what exactly is Belenos? What He, you know do? First, I’ll come back to His association with the sun, which is everything but true. When it comes to polytheistic gods, many struggle with putting their gods into categories. This probably comes from Greco-Roman ideals. Aphrodite is love and Posideon is ocean. Well, when it comes to Belenos it is true that solar attributes are present, and that sunlight is a gift, but He is not the sun. Historical evidence comes from that fact there is already a sun-god in Gaulish Polytheism, and that Belenos was brought forth in festivals of light & fire, and had many sacred springs devoted to Him. So, we already get this image of an elemental deity of light, fire, and water.
To me, these together represent a being of immense interconnectiveness to the natural world through His pastoral aspect. Not only that, but He’s a giant. Giant not in a physical sense, as Belenos doesn’t necessarily have a clear-cut form, but a huge, bright, golden consciousness that genuinely cares. Healing does come from Him, but not in the sense mending a broken arm, but in the sense that He can heal your heart and mind.
So what we have here is an ancient and far-flung god who likes to make things grow, keeping you warm, and making you feel loved. Hardly dark & edgy, I know.
If you reach out to Him, I’m sure He’ll be there. A little bit of sunlight on your skin, the smell of the earth after a good rain. That’s Belenos.