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Belenos
alias Beli Mawr

Celtic God of the Sun

Belenos, later known as Beli Mawr (the Great), was the Celtic God of the Sun, representing the curative powers of the Sunís heat. His festival of Beltane, when bonfires were lit to welcome in the Summer and encourage the Sunís warmth, was held on May 1st, and is remembered in today's May Day festivities. His symbols were the horse (as shown, for example, by the clay horse figurine offerings at Belenosí Sainte-Sabine shrine in Burgundy), and also the Wheel (as illustrated on the famous Gundestrup Cauldron). Perhaps, like Apollo, whom he became identified with, Belenos was thought to ride the Sun across the sky in a horse-drawn chariot. Indeed, a Celtic model horse and wagon, carrying a gilded sun-disc, has been found at Trundholm in Denmark. Sometimes he is illustrated riding a single horse, throwing thunder-bolts (hence an occasional identification with Jupiter) and using his symbolic radiating wheel as a shield, as he tramples the chthonic forces of a snake-limbed giant. This personification is similar to the classic depiction of the Archangel St. Michael defeating the Devil. Sacred pagan hills associated with Belenos, are thought to have had their dedications transferred to this saint (or sometimes St. George) by the early Christians. Well known examples include St. Michaelís Mount (Cornwall) and the churches of St. Michael on Brent Tor (Devon), and Burrow Mump and Glastonbury Tor (Somerset): All on a supposed ley line that faces the Rising Sun at Beltane. He may also have been worshipped on Dragon Hill below the great Uffington White Horse in Berkshire. It has been suggested the Welsh form of his name, Beli Mawr, lived on into Arthurian romance as King Pellinore of Listinoire.

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