Celtic Art: Celtic Mythology; realistic illustrations of Celtic Myths & Legends. An exhibition of Mythic Art by Contemporary American Illustrator Howard David Johnson, whose illustrations of Mythology, Folklore, Religion and History have been published all over the world by distinguished learning institutions and publishers including the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

 Manannan mac Lir sea god warrior Painting Celtic Mythology Celtic Art

Presents: Contemporary Mythical Art Galleries:

Gaelic Celtic Themed Artwork; A Gallery of New Illustrations~ Paintings, Drawings and Pictures from Celtic Mythology in traditional oil paints, Contemporary acrylics & colored pencils and cutting edge digital mixed media in a style inspired by classic illustrators. Left;  "Manannán mac Lir" and "Nuada's new hand of flesh and blood". 

 Nuada  Dian Cécht Airmed Druid healers Painting Celtic Mythology Celtic Art Dindsenchas


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The Contemporary Gaelic Celtic Mythological Art of Howard David Johnson

There are more than 33 million U.S. citizens of Irish ancestry, nine times the population of Ireland. I originally created these illustrations to share my Gaelic Celtic heritage with my children who also posed for some of them. This gallery is dedicated to my kinsmen, to kindred spirits everywhere, and to our children, and to our children's, children's, children...

cernunnos horned god painting green man Celtic Mythology Celtic Art

"Cernunnos- Horned god of the Celts"

 The Green Man, Lord of the Animals is portrayed as human with an antler crown,  and is protector of animals and law-sayer of hunting and harvest. He is also a tree, forest, and vegetation god, and his antlers symbolize the spreading treetops of the forest.

      When most people think of Celtic Art they think of design or abstract Celtic Art such as Celtic Knot work or Celtic Tattoo designs, ornamented tools, weapons, or  jewelry. For centuries, there has been a shortage of Realistic Celtic Art and Illustration. 

    Recently, there has been a world wide revival of interest in Celtic Art and Celtic Culture. Gaelic Celtic American Scientific and Historical Illustrator Howard David Johnson has worked from the latest archaeological and anthropological evidence to give us one of the most accurate views ever of the lost civilization of the Ancient Celts.Mythology is a kind of enigmatic history. 

    Irish mythology is divided into four main cycles and each one of them embraces legends from their era and each cycle main has a certain world to evoke. These worlds could be ones of heroes and warriors or those of kings’ battles and history. These four cycles are the Mythology Cycle, the Kings’ Cycle, the Ulster Cycle, and, finally, the Fenian Cycle. 

Brigit tuatha de na nann goddess art painting Celtic Mythology Celtic Art

 Brigit (AKA Saint Brigit) 

  The Gaelic goddess of  healers, smiths, childbirth inspiration  and poetry which the Gaels deemed an immaterial, super sensual form of flame.. Her name means "exalted one"and she is considered the most important of the Dagda's children.


The Tuatha de Da Naan, the Fomorians and The Red Branch Knights!

The Tuatha Dé Danann (Irish for "the folk of the goddess Danu"), also known by the earlier name Tuath Dé or "tribe of the gods" are a supernatural race in Irish mythology. They represent a mythological pantheon of deities of pre-Christian Gaelic Ireland. 

Balor of the Evil Eye painting Celtic Mythology Celtic Art

Balor Balcbéimnech (the strong smiter)

The Dark lord of the Fomorians- enemies of the Tuatha De Nanann Said to have come to Ireland from the underworld up through the depths of the sea...Balor the tyrant is often described as a giant with a large cyclopean eye that wreaks destruction when opened.

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   The Tuath Dé dwelt in the Otherworld but interacted with mortals in the human world. They were associated with ancient portals to and from the Otherworld. Their rivals are the Fomorians (Fomoire),who represent harmful or destructive powers of nature and who are defeated by the Tuath Dé in the Battle of Mag Tuired. (Moytura)

   The Fomorians were said to be a race of supernatural bloodthirsty, warrior giants which came from the underworld and were said to possess power over natural phenomena, in particular destructive elements. Fomoire may mean “demons from below (the sea)" The Fomorians are often described as monstrous, hideous-looking monsters with a single leg, arm, or eye. Irish legends tell many tales of the supernatural Fomorians.

         Each member of the Tuath Dé has associations with a particular feature of life or nature, but many appear to have more than one association. They often depicted the Tuath Dé as kings, queens and heroes of the distant past who had supernatural powers. 

The Sword of Nuada painting Celtic Mythology Celtic Art

Nuada - the Celtic god of War

King of the Tuatha De Nanann. Nuada Airgetlám (Nuada of the Silver Hand) was god of the sea, healing, and warfare, linked to Roman gods Mars and Neptune and also  the Norse god Týr. He is also associated with the sun, youth, beauty, writing, swords and sorcery. 

Some times they were explained as fallen angels [the Watchers] but some medieval writers called them gods. They were descended from Nemed, leader of a wave of inhabitants of Ireland. They came from four cities to the north of Ireland ~Falias, Gorias, Murias and Finias, where they taught their skills in the sciences, including architecture, the arts, and magic, including necromancy.

 Lugh Balor Battle Mag Tuired Moytura Fomorian Tuatha De  Nanann Evil eye Painting Celtic Mythology Celtic Art

Lugh and Balor at Mag Tuired (Moytura) 

At the last Battle of Mag Tuired (pronounced Moytura) Lugh, son of Nuada the king avenges his father's death on Balor by casting a spear crafted by Goibniu, Lugh then beheads Balor and his evil eye destroys the Fomorian army and his deadly eye beam kept blasting until it burned a hole into the earth. The hole filled with water and became a lake which is now known as Loch na Súl ("lake of the eye")

The chieftain gods of the Tuatha dé Danann were expected to secure and advance the welfare of the people by means of their supernatural powers and their four magical treasures, the Cauldron of Dagda, the Spear of Lugh, the Sword of Nuada and the Stone of Fàl.  

   The men were the Dagda, Lugh, Nuada, and the women were Danu, Anu, Brigit, and Emain Macha. Chief members of the Tuath Dé include The Dagda, the chieftain; The Morrígan; Lugh; Nuada; Aengus; Brigid; Manannán, a god of the sea; Dian Cecht, a god of healing; and Goibniu, a god of metal smithing and one of the Trí Dé Dána ("three gods of craftsmanship"). Their tales are set centuries apart, showing them to be immortals. They were said to have been banished from heaven because of their knowledge, they descended on Ireland in a cloud of mist. Some people claim that their origin goes back to Atlantis; The Leabhar Gabhála (Book of Invasions), treats them as actual people migrating to Ireland and encountering the Fir Bolg and the Fomorians. 

      Both races fought for control of Ireland. Legends have it that their first battle took place near the Shore of Lough Corrib on the Plain of Mag Tuired. Eventually, victory was on the side of Tuatha de Danann; they won the battle and took over Ireland. Their king died in the battle and they had to choose another leader. Eventually, the choice fell on Srang; he was the new leader of the Firbolgs. The battle did not end with the defeat of the Firbolgs; both races agreed to compromise, the Firbolgs only took Connaught while the rest of Ireland was given to the Tuath.

In the First Battle of Magh Tuiredh, King Nuada of the Tuatha Dé Danann lost his hand and Nuada had his hand replaced with a silver one by Dian Cecht and Creidhne, but because he was imperfect, he could not be king. Dian Cecht, the great healer with the help of his son Miach, and his sister Airmed restored the wounded of the Tuatha dé Danann  after the battle. 

The Dagda ~ the Celtic All-Father

The Dagda Tuatha de Danann painting Celtic gods Mythology Celtic Art

"The Dagda and his harp, Uaithne"

The Dagda (Celtic: “Good God”) was also called Eochaid Ollathair (“Eochaid the All-Father”), or In Ruad Ro-fhessa (“Red [or Mighty] One of Great Wisdom”), in the ancient Celtic religion, one of the leaders of a mythological Irish people, the Tuatha Dé Danann (“People of the Goddess Danu”). The Dagda mated with the sinister war goddess Morrígan.

The Dagda was foremost among the chieftain gods of the Tuatha dé Danann. He was a father-figure, a warrior king, associated with fertility, agriculture, manliness and strength, as well as magic, druidry and wisdom. In the Cath Maige Tuired, he reveals that his true name is Fer Benn ("horned man"), like the horned god of the forest, Cernunnos. But Dagda continues, relating that his complete name is Fer Benn Bruach Brogaill Broumide Cerbad Caic Rolaig

     The Dagda was called a god of music and played a magical harp called the Uaithne, also known as "the Four Angled Music," made of oak and richly ornamented with jewels. The Dagda was said to be able to control time and the seasons with Uaithne. This was how he stopped the sun when his lover Boann was pregnant with his son Angus Og. The harp’s music could overcome fear on the battlefield commanding order in battles or play three types of music which caused emotion, inspiring great sorrow, joy, or sleep and dreaming. When Fomorians stole the harp, the Dagda discovered the keep where it hung upon a wall. The harp magically flew to his hand when he called it, killing nine men. Dagda then used Uaithne, causing his enemies to cry and laugh uncontrollably, then to fall asleep and dream. 

    The Dagda possessed  great treasures, fruit trees that were never barren, and two pigs—one live and the other perpetually roasting, a huge club that had the power both to kill men and to restore them to life.the Cauldron of Plenty (the coire ansic, or cauldron which is never dry), sometimes referred to as the Undry. It was never empty of food and could also be used to restore life to fallen warriors.



"The Morrigan", "Queen Mab, the Bringer of Dreams" and "Celtic Queen Boudica and the Morrigu"

The Morrigan or the Phantom Queen was the wife of the Dagda, and Gaelic goddess of War associated with battle, warriors, and bloodshed, as well as battle sorcery and prophecy known for appearances in bird form. Similar to Valkyries in Norse/Germanic culture, gathering the souls of the slain. The Heroes of Ulster, the main focus of our exhibit, have no part in fairyland, but their enemy, Medb or Mave  is credited with Queenly rule among the Sidhe ( Fairies ) and is held by some to be the original "Queen Mab"


The Divine Couple

     "No Irish king might rule who does not unite with the goddess of the land." One of the basic precepts of Celtic religion, according to Marie-Louise Sjoestedt, is that of the marriage between the chief god and “one of the Matres” [those trios of goddesses found in Celtic iconography where there existed the tradition of the territorial goddess marrying a mortal consort], to bless the land and ensure its fertility.” Hoping to reconcile relations between the Fomorians and the Tuatha Dé Danann after the Battle of Maige Tuired, (Moytura) the beautiful and intelligent Fomorian nobleman Bres mac Elathan is crowned king by reason of marriage to Brigit of the Tuatha De Danann, daughter of the Dagda, a Drudic Priestess, and goddess of poetry and all the wisdom contained therein.

   Their ritual union on the day of Samain when the Celtic year is born, is to guarantee the ever-renewed vitality of the tribe... This connection was hoped to bring the two peoples closer together.

       Brigit is considered a goddess of antiquity and greatness; why then was she married to a man who epitomizes failure in kingship?   Bres’s reign began well, but the cruel taxation imposed by the Fomoire during his reign lead to opposition. This tragic story reverses the intent of sacral kingship, where the marriage of king and goddess promote the prosperity of the land. 

    Bres made the Tuatha Dé Danann pay tribute to the Fomorians and work as slaves: Ogma was forced to carry firewood, and the Dagda had to dig trenches around forts. He neglected his duties of hospitality: the Tuatha Dé complained that after visiting his house their knives were never greased and their breaths did not smell of ale. 

Brigid gave Bres a son, Ruadan, who would later be killed trying to assassinate Goibniu, the legendary smith of Ireland and everything went wrong for Bres after that  leading to his demotion and death.


 “The Mythical Pairing of Brig and Bres”

The Druidic Healers of the Tuatha De Danann

  Dian Cécht, Airmid and Nuada's new arm of flesh and blood “

Healing the wounds of Battle ~ Knowledgeable in the Healing arts, Ancient Druids skillfully used herbs and plants for each affliction. In wartimes, they would craft a special well in the camp, using the most powerful plants to turn this into a magical health spa. In the first battle of Mag tuiread we are told: "They brought healing herbs and crushed and scattered them on the surface of the water in the well, so that the precious waters became thick and green. Their wounded were put into the well and immediately came out whole."

Dian Cécht ( Pronounced Dye an SET, also known as Cainte or Canta) was the god of healing and legendary physician for the Tuatha Dé Danann. He was a master of  Druidic arts and the father of  Miach, Airmed, Cu, Cethen  Cian, Ochtriullach and Étan the poet .

  When Nuada was forced to abdicate after losing his hand in the first Battle of Mag Tuired since the king must be perfect in body, Dian Cécht crafted a new one for him, made of silver that functioned in every natural way. After Bres had ruled for seven years, Nuada had his severed hand, previously replaced with a silver one by Dian Cécht and Creidhne, replaced with one of flesh and blood by Dian Cécht 's son Miach, with the help of his sister Airmed; following the successful replacement, Nuada was restored to kingship and Bres was exiled, but Dian Cécht, furious that his son Miach's skills had surpassed his own, killed him.

   After being exiled Bres went to his father for help to recover his throne, but Elatha would not help him gain by foul means what he had been unable to keep: "You have no right to get it by injustice when you could not keep it by justice". Bres father directed him to Balor, another leader of the Fomorians, for the help he sought.  He led the Fomorians in the Second Battle of Magh Tuireadh but lost. 

In  the Dindsenchas Bres is killed at the hand of Lugh, who made  a bitter, poisonous red liquid which was then offered to Bres to drink. Bres, who was under an obligation not to refuse hospitality, drank it down without flinching, and it killed him. The Lebor Gabála mentions this incident briefly, however the deadly liquid is identified as sewage. 

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'Celtic Art and Celtic Mythology: The Ulster Cycle illustrated.'

The Master of War and goddess of Death

   Scáthach (Scottish Gaelic: Sgàthach, Scathach, ) was the most fearsome warrior woman of old Irish legend. Her name means “the shadowy one” in Gaelic and she trained great soldiers at her school for heroes. In the legends, dying while training with Scáthach wasn’t at all unusual. Scáthach’s training was notoriously intense as she taught skills like pole vaulting over castle walls and underwater fighting. If her trainees didn’t survive her regimen, then her charges simply weren’t worthy.

"The Warrior Maid" was also the rival and sister of Aífe, both of whom are daughters of Árd-Greimne of Lethra; If you wanted the honor of training with her, first you had to find her.

Finding Scáthach?

Indeed, before any warriors could even ask Scáthach for help, they had to first find and then reach her domain. The woman’s fortress, called Dun Scaith (Castle of Shadows), reportedly sat on Isle of Skye northwest of Scotland. Kings and princes who wanted to get there had to cross the Irish Sea, known for its deadly storms and choppy waters, eastward or navigate the cold waters of the Atlantic northward along the craggy islands of western Scotland.

Scáthach's instruction of the young hero Cú Chulainn;  In Ireland’s mythological epic, the Táin Bó Cúailnge, it was said of him "You will not encounter a warrior harder to deal with, nor a spear-point sharper or keener or quicker, nor a hero fiercer, nor a raven more voracious, nor one of his age to equal a third of his valour.”

 Scáthach Painting Celtic Irish Mythology Celtic Art Scátha warrior woman shadowy one Tuatha De Nanann

" Scáthach ~ teacher of fighters on the the Isle of Skye"

 "Scáthach was also a formidable magician with the gift of prophecy. She became the Celtic goddess of the dead, ensuring the passage of those killed in battle to Tír na nÓg, the Land of Eternal Youth and the most popular of the Otherworlds in Celtic mythology..."

Queen Mave surprises Cú Chulainn celtic mythology painting art irish  art

"Queen Mave betrays Cú Chulainn"

Heroes, Monsters and Magic

     The heroes of the Celts, although of divine ancestry are in a different category than the gods of the Gaelic Celts, just as Perseus and Siegfried are sons of Zeus and Woten in Greek and Nordic mythology. The Red Branch Knights served Concobar mac Nessa, king of Ulster, a province of ancient Ireland.

The greatest Red Branch commander was Cú Chulainn, a demigod, the mightiest of the heroes of Irish romance. The other chief heroes were Conall Kernach; Laegaire (or Laery) the Victorious; Keltar of the Battles and Fergus mac Roy. These Red Branch Knights, and their contemporaries, heroes of Munster and Connaught, fought, rode, and raced in chariots; and that they erected immense duns or forts like Emain Machawere all over Ireland.  Scáthach taught Cú Chulainn all the arts of war, including the use of the Gáe Bulg, a terrible barbed spear, thrown with the foot, that has to be cut out of its victim.

Cú Chulainn notably appears in Tochmarc Emire (AKA The Wooing of Emer), called the Irish Iliad, it was an ancient folk tale preceding the great epic Táin Bó Cúailnge. (AKA The Cattle raid of Cooley)  In it, Cú Chulainn was said to be so beautiful and highly skilled that the women were unable to control themselves and it was decided he must marry as soon as possible. None of the choices brought before him were to his liking so he set out to find a bride on his own.


After much searching, Cú Chulainn heard of Emer, who he hoped would meet his standards. She was noble daughter to the Chieftain Forgall Monach, who was very protective of her. Forgall tried to pair Cú Chulainn with his oldest daughter Fial, whom he had already pledged in marriage to Carpre Niafer but Cú Chulainn refused her. Forgall did not want him to marry Emer.  Emer possessed the six gifts that made her ideal for her time. They were beauty, wisdom, chastity, voice, sweet speech, and needlework. Cuchulainn set out to pay Emer a visit...

Cú Chulainn, Lion of Ulster,  Son of Lugh, Champion and Paladin of Emain Macha painting art celtic

"Cú Chulainn, Lion of Ulster,  Son of Lugh, Champion and Paladin of Emain Macha"

Cú Chulainn the wooing of Emer painting Irish Mythology Celtic Art illustration Ulster saga

"Cuchulain takes Emer by Force"

 Emer, wife of Cú Chulainn Ulster Saga Celtic Mythology painting daughter of Chieftain Forgall Monach wooing of Emer Irish art Tochmarc Emire

"Emer, wife of Cú Chulainn & noble daughter of Chieftain Forgall the Clever"

 wooing of Emer, wife of Cú Chulainn painting art Tochmarc Emire Ulster Saga Celtic Mythology  daughter of Chieftain Forgall Monach Irish
"The  Wooing of Emer"

      Cú Chulainn, when he arrived, spoke to Emer in code words and phrases; riddles and puns that made no sense to the other listeners. They went on in that way for some time, and then Cú Chulainn peeked down the top of her shirt and said “ Fair is this plain, the plain of the noble yoke,’ said Cú Chulainn. ‘No one comes to this plain,’ said she, ‘who has not achieved the feat of slaying three times nine men with one blow, leaving one man in each group alive, and slay one hundred men at each of the fords between here and Emain Macha.”They had spoken in riddles, and that Emer had not only been quick enough to figure out what he was saying, she was clever enough to play the game with him. They both knew her over-protective father would not approve of him seeking her out, but he had wooed her, and she had accepted. She had set him certain tasks that he had to complete before they could be married.  It is said, it shall be done,’ said Cú Chulainn. ‘It is offered, it is granted, it is taken, it is accepted,’ said Emer.

    To win the Chieftain's favor Cú Chulainn became honour-bound to train under Scáthach and perform a number of Herculean tasks before being able to be found worthy to marry his beloved Emer. When he completed his training Forgall refused to keep his word and of course, this had been Forgall’s plan all along.
Cú Chulainn Forgall Monach Emer celtic mythology art painting irish myth ulster saga
Celtic princess Ulster cycle Emer art painting mythology

 Cú Chulainn Ulster Saga Celtic Mythology painting Scatha Isle of Skye wooing of Emer Irish art Tochmarc Emire

"Forgall tries to deceive CúChulainn"
"Cú Chulainn finds favor in Emer's Eyes" "The Search for Scatha"

The journey to Scathach’s island was long and perilous, and with luck, Cuchulainn would perish along the way. Even if he did get there, Scathach’s training was harsh and many did not survive it, and she was waging a war against a neighbouring warrior-woman named Aoife, and that war claimed the lives of many students. At best, Cuchulainn would be killed, but at worst, he would be gone for several years, and Forgall could see Emer safely married to a more suitable man before he returned.

 Forgall quickly arranged for Emer to marry the King of Munster, a man named Lugaid. The wedding feast was arranged, and all was ready, but when Emer came out to meet her bridegroom, she took his face between her two hands and said to him “I love Cuchulainn, and Cuchulainn loves me. He will come back for me, and if you take me against my will, it will mean you have no honour, and he will take his revenge on you for it.”
In spite of Forgall's protests, Lugaid left. Cú Chulainn came and claimed her by force of arms and in the conflict her father was killed. Emer mourned her father, but as Cuchulainn had not actually killed him she did not hold it against him. His death was accidental, and his own fault.

So the two of them were married, and proved to be well-suited. They were equal to one another in wit and wisdom, and while Cuchulainn was often away with battles and feats of arms, and spent time with other women, Emer was not jealous, because she knew he would always return to her except one time... but that's another story...

Aoife the Amazon Painting Celtic Mythology Aífe Celtic Art warrior woman irish myth ulster saga Aided Óenfhir Aífe

"Aoife the Amazon, sister of Scatha"
 "Scáthach's twin sister Aoife [pr. EE-fa] or Aífe was at war with her when Cú Chulainn came to train on the isle of Skye. He fought Aoife and bested her in combat and then became her lover and she bore a son, Conlaoch [conn ”chief” + laoch ”hero” ] or Connla. Aided Óenfhir Aífe (English: The Death of Aífe's Only Son) is a story from the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology.  In Aided Óefhir Aífe their son Conlaoch, at the age of seven, comes to Ireland in search of his father, following Cú Chulainn's instruction not to identify himself.

Cu Chulainn is one of the most famous Irish mythological heroes. He appears in the stories of the Ulster Cycle, and Scottish and Manx folklore. Son of Deichtine and the god Lugh, and the nephew of Conchobar mac Nessa, the King of Ulster. He was born Sétanta, a young boy with great potential. but he gained the name Cu Chulainn, meaning ‘Culann’s Hound’ after he killed a ferocious guard dog belonging to a smith named Culann. Cu Chulainn offered to take the place of the guard dog until a replacement could be reared. Cú Chulainn, with the responsibility as the hound of Ulster, or its protector, was left to single-handedly defend the land

Cú Chulainn and Aoife at the battle of ALBA
 Cú Chulainn Táin Bó Cúailnge Cattle Raid of Cooley Painting Celtic Mythology Celtic Art Tuatha De Nanann

"Cú Chulainn and Aoife at ALBA"

" Scátha" (close-up)  "Cú Chulainn son of Lugh"

Táin Bó Cúailnge Masthead text
or "The Cattle Raid of Cooley"
Queen Medb  Maeve Madb Mave Mab cetic Irish mythology Painting art Ulster saga Warrior Woman Táin Bó Cúailnge

 "Queen Maive of Connaught" [Mave]
Queen Medb [Mave] beautiful daughter of the high king of Ireland sent her army to raid Ulster and steal their prize bull. Her name means "she who intoxicates" and gave her warriors copious servings of mead every night and chose a warrior to face Cuchullain in single combat.

    The Book of the Dun Cow, the Book of Leinster, and other old manuscripts tell romantic stories about those Red Branch Knights, and about the Knights of Munster and Connaught. The most celebrated of all these tales is what is called the Táin Bó Cúailnge or "Cattle spoil" of Cooley. The incredibly beautiful Queen Maive of Connaught, having some cause of quarrel with an Ulster chief, set out with her army for the north on a plundering expedition, attended by all Connaught's great heroes. During the march northwards, The warrior queen wore golden armor and had nine splendid chariots for herself and her attendant chiefs, her own in the centre, with two abreast in front, two behind, and two on each side, right and left; and—in the words of the old tale—"the reason for this order was, lest the clods from the hoofs of the horses, or the foam-flakes from their mouths, or the dust raised by that mighty host, should strike and tarnish the golden diadem on the head of the queen."

Queen Maeve cetic Irish mythology Painting art Ulster saga Warrior Woman Táin Bó Cúailnge Medb Madb Mave Mab

 "The Golden Diadem of Queen Medb"
Her promised rewards included gold lands and even the hand of her lovely daughter in marriage.The Heroes of Ulster have little to do with fairyland, but their enemy, Medb, Madb or Mave  is credited with Queenly rule among the Sidhe (Fairies) and is held by some to be the original "Queen Mab"

     The invading army entered Ulster when the men were under a spell of feebleness, all but Cuculainn, who had to defend single-handed the several fords and passes, in a series of combats against Maive's best champions, in all of which he was victorious. But, in spite of what he could do, Queen Maive carried off nearly all the best cattle and, at their head, a great brown bull which indeed was what she chiefly came for. At length the Ulstermen, having been freed from the spell, attacked and routed the Connaught army. The battles, single combats, and other incidents of this war are related in the Tain, which consists of one main story, with about thirty minor tales grouped round it.

The CURSE of MACHA morrigu morrigan cattle raid of cooley ulster saga art painting celtic mythology irish

" The CURSE of MACHA "

Cúchulainn slays Mave's champion and his men at Áth Meislir

"Cúchulainn slays Mave's champion and his men at Áth Meislir"
Cuchullain painting art EMAIN MACHA celtic cattle raid of cooley irish myth

" Lone Defender of EMAIN MACHA "

"The Cattle Raid of Cooley", "The Giant Slayer" and "The Wooing of Emer"

Cú Chulainn The Cattle Raid of Cooley painting Celtic Mythology Celtic Art Ulster saga Irish myth              Cuchulain and Fat Neck the Giant Painting Celtic Mythology Celtic Art  Irish Giant killer            Tochmarc Emire The Wooing of Emer  painting Celtic Mythology Celtic Art Irish myth

"Cú Chulainn in his War Chariot", "Cuchulain the Giant Slayer", and "Cú Chulainn wooing Emer"

Cú Chulainn takes Ener by Force [detail] painting art celtic mythology ulster saga

"Cú Chulainn takes Emer by Force" [detail]

The Death of Fer Diad

"The Death of Fer Diad"

Tochmarc Emire painting art the wooing of Emer celtic mythology

"Cú Chulainn wooing Emer"  [detail]


"Serglige Con Culainn ocus Óenét Emire"
(The Only Jealousy of Emer)

     The Wasting Sickness of Cú Chulainn and the Only Jealousy of Emer chronicles the struggle of three women... Emer, Eithne Inguba and Fand the Faerie Queen for possession of Cuchulain. After Emer has shamed him for allowing a woman's love to weaken him, Cú Chulainn travels with Liban, defeats Fand's enemies, and stays with her for a month. When he returns to Ireland he arranges a tryst with her, but Emer finds out and sharpens a knife, intending to kill Fand, but when she sees the strength of Fand's love she offers to give her up husband to her. Fand is so impressed by Emer's magnanimity that she gives up her claim on Cú Chulainn and returns to her husband. The druids give Cú Chulainn and Emer a potion to wipe the whole affair from their memories, and Manannán shakes his cloak between Cú Chulainn and Fand, ensuring they will never meet again.
    Emer's behavior is brave as well as insightful. Fand's allurements are transitory. Fand's calculated allurement contrasts with Emer's passionate suffering. Fand wants to catch him to fulfill herself, not to aid in his salvation. Emer is more courageous than Eithne Inguba, more self-sacrificing than Fand, and more forgiving than Aoife. Emer's love for her husband transfigures her, whereas Aoife's vindictive hatred for Cuchulain cost them their only child. Instead of bring the jealous wife seeking vengeance for herself, she is jealous only for her husband's well-being.

The Only Jealousy of Emer celtic mythology painting art cuchullainn

"The Only Jealousy of Emer"
Emer's hope to win back Cuchulain's love for her during her initial inability to give up hope of winning back his love, and through to her final renunciation of his love, the depth of her love and the extent of her sacrifice is shown. By renouncing the love of her life, Emer proves herself to be a sublime and superior heroine.

The Death of Cú Chulainn
During his many years as champion of Ulster, Cú Chulainn slew all the men who challenged him. One was Calatan, a great sorcerer who left a pregnant wife who bore sextuplets: three girls and three boys, raised in all the arts of druidry and sorcery. When the time came, they set out with a troop to take revenge. Cuchulainn, knowing nothing of this, carried on his life for many years, and one day came on three hags roasting a hound, and inviting him to join their meal. These were the Morrigan, the goddess of war. Long before that, she had offered Cuchulainn her love, and he turned her down. Cuchulainn tried to decline them but they bewitched and cursed him, breaking his solemn vow and losing him half his strength. This was his punishment for rejecting the goddess. In his weakened state, he still killed the three sons of Calatan, but Lugaid Cu Roi pulled the spear out, and threw it back at Cuchulainn, straight through his stomach, spraying out his intestines. Cuchulainn, mortally wounded, set his eye upon a standing-stone in the plain, and put his breast-girdle round it that he might not die on the ground like an animal, but so he might die on his feet like a warrior. The warriors gathered round about him, daring not to approach. Then came the battle goddess Morrigu and her sisters in the form of scald-crows and perched on his shoulder.

Cú Chulainn & the three one-eyed hags painting Death of Cú Chulainn Celtic Art Celtic Mythology Irish Ulster Saga

"Cú Chulainn & the three one-eyed hags"

Death of Cú Chulainn painting Celtic Art Celtic Mythology Irish Ulster Saga morrigan crow morrigu sisters

"The Death of Cú Chulainn"  [detail]

Death of Cú Chulainn painting Mythology  Celtic Art   Irish Ulster Saga morrigan crow morrigu sisters

"The Death of Cú Chulainn"

As he stood there, dying, one of the birds tripped over his intestine. Cuchulainn laughed, and died with the laugh in his mouth. For three days after he died, he stood tied to the rock, and still none of his enemies were brave enough to approach, and make sure he was dead. At the end of three days, the Morrigan took the shape of a raven, and perched on his shoulder, and when he did not move, they knew it was safe. Lugaid Cu Roi  wanted Cuchulainn’s sword as a trophy, but he had died with such a tight grip on it that Lugaid could not get the sword free. He drew a knife and cut the tendons on Cuchulainn’s hand to loosen his grip, and when the sword fell it cut off Lugaid Cu Roi’s hand.

So fell
Cú Chulainn, king among warriors.

Popular retellings of the
Cú Chulainn legends include Lady Gregory's Cuchulain of Muirthemne (1902) and Eleanor Hull's The Boys' Cuchulain, were published, and William Butler Yeats wrote a series of plays, On Baile's Strand (1904), The Green Helmet (1910), At the Hawk's Well (1917), The Only Jealousy of Emer (1919) and The Death of Cuchulain (1939), featuring the hero. More recent literary retellings of Cú Chulainn's story include Morgan Llywelyn's 1989 historical novel Red Branch, Rosemary Sutcliff's children's novel The Hound of Ulster (1963), and in The Ulster Cycle (2002-13) Randy Lee Eickhoff translates Ireland's ancient mythology into vital, accessible and novelistic retellings.


red dragon painting drake flyer monster

"Y Ddraig Goch" or "The Red Dragon"

The Red Dragon" or "Y Ddraig Goch" in Welsh, is the symbol of Wales and adorns its national flag. This dragon was featured on the legendary battle standards of King Arthur, the heathen Celtic gods and historic chieftains and kings.   The red Dragon was first brought to Great Britain during the Roman era and history tells us they first learned of it from the Persians. The Red Dragon or 'draco' symbol was used as a standard by the Roman army but over time it was adopted by the Welsh people as their national flag. It is the oldest extant national flag flying today.

In Celtic mythology Aibell (below - was also called Aoibheall or anglicised as Aeval) was the guardian spirit of the Dál gCais, the Dalcassians or Ó Bríen clan. She was the ruler of the sídhe (SHEE) or the fairy people of Irish folklore, said to live beneath the hills and identified as the remnant of the ancient Tuatha Dé Danann. 

  Her dwelling place was Craig Liath, the grey rock, a hill overlooking the Shannon in Cúige Mumhan a province in Southern Ireland. The Legends tell us Aibell had a lover named Dubhlainn Ua Artigan and a magic harp whose melody foretold immanent death.




"Aibell the beautiful Banshee" MMXVII and " Dubhlainn Ua Artigan" MMXVII, and "The DULLAHAN on the Kelpie" MMXIX

The Dullahan or The Headless Horseman Gan Ceann or "without a head" in Irish.is a type of fairy in Celtic Mythology. He carried a whip made from the spines of human corpses and wore a hideous grin and roving eyes that could see for miles in the dark. Those who see him ride by have blood thrown in their faces or are struck blind in one eye. When the Dullahan stops riding and calls someone's name that person dies. The mystic black steed is a Water Kelpie that can send sparks or flame from it's hooves and nostrils. Sizable bodies of water in Scotland have Kelpie legends, the most famous of which is the Loch Ness Monster. Parallels include the Greek Hippocampus, the Scandinavian Backahast or the Germanic Neck or nixie. The lowland name of a demon in the shape of a horse.


     Prosperos Fairies the tempoest fairy art fairy painting wizard fairies        


"Blodeuwedd and Gwydion"MMXIV: Oil on Canvas, "Prospero's Faeries" MMXIX and  right "Morgan Le Fey" MMXV

Blodeuwedd means "born of the flowers" and is Welsh Celtic Mythology in English from "The stories of the Mabinogion" translated by the Lady Charlotte Guest AKA The White book of Rhydderch (Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch) finally written in Welsh ca. 1350 & the Red Book of Hergest (Llyfr Coch Hergest) ca. 1382-1410.


fantasy art fine art paintings of myth           Queen Mave Medb Madb Mab Queen of the Sidhe Fairies fairy Tuatha De Nanann Irish Painting Celtic Mythology Celtic Art

"The Celtic Harpist" MMXII,  "FAE Lament" MMXV and "Queen Medb" [Mave] 

Queen Medb  Maeve, Madb or Mave  is credited with Queenly rule among the Sidhe (Fairies) and is held by some to be the original "Queen Mab".




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All these pieces of art and the text are legally copyrighted and were registered with the U.S. Library of Congress Office of Copyright by the author, Howard David Johnson All rights reserved worldwide. Permission for many academic or non-commercial uses is freely and legally available by simply contacting the author via e-mail or visiting www.howarddavidjohnson.com/permission.htm



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Bibliography/ Acknowledgements

some key text sources and recommended reading:

Mr. E.W.B. Nicholson, M.A.   "Keltic Researches"

The Lady Wilde "Ancient Legends of Ireland"

Crofton Croker "Fairy Legends and traditions of the South of Ireland"

John Rhys: "Studies in the Arthurian Legend" and 

" Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by Celtic Heathendom"

Jo Kerrigan "Old Ways, Old Secrets: Pagan Ireland: Myth * Landscape * Tradition"

Alfred Nutt: "Popular studies in Mythology, Romance, and Folklore"

O'Curry: "Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish"

De Jubainville: "Cycle Mythologique Irlandais"

Tacitus: " Annals" and "Agricola"

Julius Caesar: "De Bello Gallico"

Nennius: Historia Britonum

The King Arthur Legends' Celtic Origins:

It is now generally regarded as fact that the Celtic legends of history surrounding the medieval King Arthur and Guinevere are really derived from the Religion of the Ancient Britons ( Celts ) and the attributes and events of the life of King Artaius and Gwenhwyvar of the British gods have been applied to the actual historical King Arthur and Queen Guinevere in an attempt to preserve the oral traditions of their ancient Celtic spiritual and cultural heritage against the persecution of the Romans during the dark ages... Merlin was Myrddin, Mordred was Medrawt, Galahad was Gwalchaved and Sir Kay was Kai.  Was The Lady of the Lake a Celtic lake divinity in origin, the same kind as the Gwagged Annwn? Or was she originally a lake fairy from Welsh folklore. Of many, Vivienne is the best choice for the name of this Lady of the Lake - the one who also enchanted Merlin and imprisoned him forever. 

     King Arthur + Sir Lancelot Jousting  The Lady in the Lake from the King Arthur Nimue, Viviane, Vivien, Elaine, Ninianne, Nivian, Nyneve, or Evienne


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The Ulster Saga and the chieftain gods of the Gaelic Celts 


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From THE ULSTER CYCLE coloured pencil plate # 9 shown actual size

The terrible tragedy of the Irish Achilles: Cuchulainn unknowingly kills his abandoned son Conlaech.

When I began working on these Gaelic Celtic Art illustrations in 1995 I employed the methods I learned as a scientific illustrator.  I thought I was dealing with Mythology, which I define as a dead religion.  I am so glad now that I treated the material with respect. What a surprise to find out after I exhibited them that this religion has revived in a new form.  Of course I say a new form because claims that this Modern Celtic Paganism is the exact same religion practiced by the Druids and the Ancient Celts are impossible to substantiate.  This is because the Ancient Celts, like the Pre-Historic Hebrews had no written language and relied on oral tradition.  Because of this, the harpist was of incredible importance to the ancient Celts. The harp is the living symbol today of the Gaelic Celtic oral tradition and Celtic music is now celebrated all over the world. The only extant accounts of the Druids are brief mentions in the writings of Julius Caesar from the first century B.C. which go into no useful details whatsoever on this matter.  I've heard it said: "Ask a hundred Pagans: What is Paganism and you're likely to get a hundred different answers." This does not make this any easier for contemporary scholars to sort out. However, It is my American Scots-Irish family's roots and cultural heritage after all and I feel what we do have is to be preserved and never to be treated lightly even if I don't believe any of the supernatural elements in it.   These illustrations are based on my euhemeristic approach, which attributes the origin of the gods to the deification of historical heroes or real persons and events.  I created these pictures to teach my children about their Gaelic Celtic heritage because I could find hardly any to show them when I told them the old stories. ( For more on my struggle to sort out history from mythology see the essay "How do we sort out History and Mythology?" below ). My scholarly Gaelic Celtic sources* and also, more art & my essays on art and art and technology follow."

~Howard David Johnson