Ancient Worship & Etymology
Belinos worship was easily the most widely spread throughout the whole Celtic world, but time must first be spent on the two major regions; Noricum and Aquileia, where inscriptions have most frequently been discovered. The most probable theory and the one we’ll be running with is that Noricum is where the cult of Belinos originated as the Toutatis “tribal protector” of the Norics under the name Belinus. He may in fact be one of the most ancient Deuoi.
It could possibly translate to spring/fountain, henbane, and the most likely “the shining one”. Or it could mean all these things, as the Gauls were known for their wordplay.
The most Gaulish variations of the name would be Belinus/Belinos, while Belenus is typically found as part of the syncretic Apollo Belenus, and Belenos being the most popular modern variation of the name. Scholars would often correct incomplete inscriptions to “Belenos” which has led this logography to a popular spelling among Gaulish Polytheists today.
The majority of Deuoi we worship today end up being known from one or two inscriptions if any at all. Depending on the source, anywhere from thirty to over fifty inscriptions have been found across western and central continental Europe, most densely in the Carnico-Norican region.
In the neopagan context, Belinos is often viewed as the god of Beltane, the Gaelic fire festival in the spring. It’s through this that He gains pastoral and fire elements, as livestock would be driven between fires in order to ensure their health and prosperity. This has always been perplexing to me. There is no evidence of Beltane in Gaulish areas; it would have been marked in the Coligny calendar, nor is there evidence of Belinos in Gaelic areas.
It is extremely likely the connection starts and ends with the Celtic stem of “Bel”, meaning shining/bright.
In Britain, there’s an inscription to Apollo Bellinus from the time of the Romans, but it’s a bit more difficult to make a case of the worship of Belenos in the area that predates Roman rule. By looking at several key factors, like the connections between Belgic tribes on both sides of the channel, and how their continental counterparts did have inscriptions found in their territory, as well as personal names that were connected etymologically such as the ancient king Cunobelinus. At least for us, all signs point to yes.
Belinos is often attributed as a solar deity by many modern sources, but that conclusion is extremely lazy due to associations with Apollo. While Belinos was closely syncretized with Apollo much earlier than the better-known syncretisms that happened with the conquest of Gaul, it was never as a god of the sun. Solar associations call to attention the light of the sun and the positive effects they have on people and the environment.
The first we’ll discuss is Belinos’ known pastoral element. The idea of the sun coming down on the open field and bringing light and life to all that has direct access to the sky brings up some interesting ideas that will be further explored later on. These sun-touched fields are an altogether different place from how densely forested Gaul itself was during this period.
Next, there are the connections to the water cultus. A votive basin discovered near Bouche-du-Rhone alongside many other inscriptions by springs, and even tying Belinos to the Hellenistic Nymphs go a long way in creating these water associations.
We also have the healing associations which draw heavily from the previous two, enriching light with the nurturing element of freshwater springs and streamings weaving their way through the landscape brings life and energy to all who dwell upon. The springs where inscriptions to Belinos were found were often known to have healing properties and also correlate with the Apollo associations. This is also why He can be known as the fire over water, something that brings together both of these ideas.
There is also an association with prophecy, but this oracular element is likely distinctive to the Apollo syncretism as it this association is altogether unsupported outside of which.
Potential Appearance in Slavic Folklore
The worship of Belinos was so heavy in Noricum, an interesting theory appears through Slavic folklore after a region of Noricum was settled by Slavs in what would eventually become Slovenia and disseminated throughout the Slavic sphere. A number of spirits/gods appear to have derived their names from the local Belinus etymology in the form of Bęlibog, Belinez, Belobog, & Belin. Slavic Polytheists seem to argue that the deity Belobog is “fakelore”, not appearing in complex myths.
Regardless, the other spirits/entities might suggest a Slavic interpretation or syncretism of Belinos. The god/entity Belin is considered to be a great healer and carries a key that can cure blindness. Other interpretations of this folklore character suggest a benevolent spirit that embodies a good life and guides people out of the woods when they are lost.
Belinos is a Deuoi that fits wonderfully into our theology. He is an integral part of the analogy of the forest and the field, in which balance between the two must be struck. Belinos works best as a force of good when the light of the sun is able to reach the ground and stimulate life and growth and is unable to penetrate thick canopies which leaves the forest floor to Dumnos. He is the light revealed, guiding us out of the woods and out of the darkness.
Belinos is a potent healer of the body and the mind. Through our work, we allow Belinos to act on our lives and our communities but require that effort to maintain the fields and not allow the forest to encroach. When we work our muscles, Belinos repairs them stronger. Systems that are created with intent can improve the natural system in ways greater than wild growth. Removing weeds is generally better for a garden, allowing rich variety. The bibrax, the beaver halts the flow of water, destroying the stream. In its place, a biodiverse wetland is created. Through Taranos we have our how, but through Belinos we have our why.
Deuoi for all Keltoi
From the perspective of the modern Gauls and Brittonic Polytheists, Belinos presents a unique case. Many Deuoi were highly localized and only connected to a specific group or groups of Gauls. What Belinos offers through worship allows us to be better, to allow that light, that fire over water into ourselves so we may share it with our tribes. Depending on your specific custom, there are different ways He might be invoked. As we mentioned in the etymology portion, Belinus/Belinos would be most suitable for followers of Galatibessus, Brittonics, or Gallo-Brittonic polytheists. Belenus would work best when invoking Gallo-Roman/Gallo-Hellenic’s Apollo syncretism, while Belenos works just fine as a common name understood by all.
How to Give Worship
Giving worship to Belinos in the modern day can start simply by creating opportunities for Belinos to operate in your life. This can be done through mindfulness meditation, exercise, and spending time in the sun.
An altar to Belinos would be most appropriate that incorporates the aspects of fire over water. A simple basin of water will invoke the healing aspects of water and a floating candle will bring the light and warmth of the sun to your religious space. More elaborate altars could involve an enclosed plant terrarium sitting under the sun. When giving offerings to Belinos, consider this inscription found in Bouche-du-Rhone “pro se et suos” “on behalf of myself, my friends, and my family” Belinos’ light is for all of you and yours.
Soother of strained minds and bodies
Sustainer of hope and comfort
Restorer of broken spirits
Enveloped in your warm glow
Surrounded by your gentle embrace
Encouraged to live fully by your healing
Lord of Motion and Summers
You are the fire upon the water.
It is through you that we experience joy and friendship,
Belinos, full of grace.
Belinos, full of grace.
Belinos, full of grace.
Belinos of Fire and Light
Belinos of Water and Motion
Quiet my mind and still my body
And bring me back to Life
Sources for information beyond the shared gnosis of Sepanioi Roti are as follows:
Jack Lindsay (1961), Canudos and Belenos
Marjeta Šašel Kos (2001) Belin, Belenus, Belinus
Blanca María Prósper (2017) The irreducible Gauls used to swear by Belenos. – Or did they? Celtic religion, henbane and historical Misapprehensions