Celtic Festival of Nechtan, Nodens, Nuada, Nudd & Llud

371px-Neptune_et_Amphitrite
Neptune

On December 1st (or the new moon) the Romans made offering to Neptune. I don’t have any more information than that, but it’s interesting that a God not very popular in Rome has two annual Festivals. Sailors preferred the Greek sea God Poseidon to Neptune.

Neptune, Gaelic Nechtan, Brythonic Nodens, Brythonic Nudd and Llud, and Gaelic Nuada all have linguistic roots in the proto-Indo-European God Xákwōm Népōt also known as Neptonos. Xákwōm Népōt seems to have guarded a well of fiery water, something associated with magic, wisdom, poetry and prophecy in medieval Irish writing. His name translates to “Uncle/ Close Relative in Water” but probably means “God Dwelling in Water,” the source of fiery water rising from the Underworld in wells and springs. Xákwōm Népōt is associated with the deities’ drink of immortality, *Nekter “death overcoming.” We find drinks that provide immortality, wisdom and kingship throughout Indo-European cultures. In Ireland it’s the Ale of the smith God Goibniu and the pork from Manannan Mac Lir, but mead or honeyed ale probably was the drink given to the Irish king during his inauguration.

If you would like to organize your worship of Celtic deities who have no known Festivals, you may want to use the Roman Imperial calendar. Aside from Ireland, the Romans conquered the vast world of the Celtic tribes and kingdoms. (Newgrange did have Roman tourists.) Sometimes Romans associated a native Celtic deity with a very popular Roman deity. However, Celtic people also choose the deity for themselves, leading to many Celtic Gods associated with Mars in one region and Mercury in another. The Celtic understanding of what a deity is never really matched that of the Romans, so the fit was often strained at first. However, over a few generations, new Celtic cults developed. When deities share a common origin like Xákwōm Népōt it’s easier to work with Their core importance. In this case, we find both, overlapping in different Celtic deities.

The Deities

Nechtan Pronounced: NEK-tan

Nechtan is the Gaelic keeper of the Well of Wisdom. Around the well grow nine hazel trees which are in bloom and provide fruit at the same time. Drinking the water, eating a hazelnut from the well, or eating a salmon that has eaten the hazelnuts gives someone the knowledge of everything. Living in the Otherworldly Síd Nechtain, only Nechtan and his three young female cup-bearers could visit the well safely. (Cup-bearers were important for the safety of royalty, as they protected the cups from being poisoned.) Nechtan is often cited as the husband of Boann.

Many have searched for the well, which appears with different names such as Connla’s Well, Well of Coelrind, Well of Nechtan, and the Well of Segais in different tales. The famous Anglo-Irish poet William Butler Yeats visited the well in a trance and wrote it was filled with “waters of emotion and passion, in which all purified souls are entangled.”

Invocation to Nechtan by Heather Awen

He of the shining waters that spring from the earth,
He who is the fountain that arises filled with imbas,
He from where all rivers begin,
Nechtan, Nechtan, Nechtan, God of the holy well,
May you sense my call.
So crucial are you to the Celtic soul,
You fill the prophet’s head.
Hazelnuts fall, ancient salmon return to spawn,
For you are the source of it all.

Boann “white cow” Pronounced: BO-an

“Boann from the bosom of our great riverbank, Mother of very fine Aengus, The son she bore the Dagda, A clear honor in spite of the man of the Sid.” -From Dindshenchas (place lore)

Boann is a member of the Tuatha De Danann (pronounced TOO-ah-hah djay DAH-nahn). She is the daughter of Delbaeth, the son of Elada. The white cow is the ultimate Indo-European symbol of abundance and wealth. Cow Goddesses are usually mother Goddesses of fertility who are devoted to the tribe’s abundance. White animals have no camouflage and rarely live to adulthood. Because they are so rare, they are sacred in many cultures.

Some say Boann is the wife of Elcmar who lives in the sid (mound) of Newgrange; others swear that her husband is Nechtan, keeper of the Well of Wisdom. Even while knowing she was a devoted wife, the Dagda desired Boann. The Morrigan was wonderful at protecting their land, but the Dagda sensed Boann could make it flourish with life. Although it was against her faithful nature, Boann made love with the Dagda. To keep Boann safe, the Dagda tricked Elcmar into leaving for one day, but kept the sun in the sky for nine months. That was enough time for Boann to carry and give birth to Aengus Mac Oc “conceived and born on the same day.”

Boann later went to the Well of Wisdom, Tobar Segais, some say to purify herself and others say to prove herself innocent of having the affair. Those who approach the well must move in the correct ritual manner (clockwise/sunwise) and have no moral flaws. But Boann, who cheated on her husband, walked around the well counterclockwise. Did she do it on purpose, filled with shame, or did she truly forget how to approach the well? Whatever her reasons, as she circled the spring its fiery waters rose. They rose and rushed after Boann! She ran towards the ocean and the waters followed, ripping away one of her eyes, one of her arms and one of her legs. What was left was the newly created River Boyne, feeding the rich farmland near the High King’s court of Tara. She flowed past Newgrange, the huge astronomical observatory and cheiftain tomb from Ireland’s first days of agriculture.

Some say that by losing her eye, arm and leg to the Well of Wisdom Boann gained Second Sight, being half in the Otherworld.

The Boyne River has been an incredibly important river in Ireland since the Neolithic period and is the embodiment of Boann, the cow Goddess of fertility who gave birth to the God of youth. Boann’s painful transformation turned her into another source of life with knowledge of the Otherworld. Bealach na Bó Finne (“the White Cow’s Way”) is the Milky Way. Some say the milk comes from Boann herself.

Noden_bronze_plate
Fragment of a bronze plate from the Sanctuary of Nodens

Nodens Pronounced: NO-dense

An ancient Brythonic God of the sea, hunting and healing, Nodens (or Nodons) is the earliest form of the name of the Mabinogi Gods Nudd and Llud. His name may be related to the word “catcher” like a hunter or fisher, and some believe that his job included hunting and catching disease. Nodens is also connected with the Old Irish Nuada, an important figure from the Irish Mythological Cycle.

In ancient Britain, under Roman rule, a temple complex dedicated to Nodens was built at Lydney Park in Gloucestershire. The dormitories for the ill overlooked the Severn River and its tidal wave. (This river’s wave is so strong that today people surf on it. The Goddess Sabrina may be the Severn.) Pilgrims traveled to the temple for healing, especially to have a dream where Nodens would tell them how to get better. The beautiful temple had a mosaic floor with images of fish, dolphins, and sea monsters, and was decorated with bronze reliefs depicting a sea deity, fishermen and tritons, nine statues of dogs, some similar to Irish Wolfhounds and one with a human face. (Dogs are associated with healing because they heal their own wounds by licking them. They are also associated with hunting.) Among the offerings were over 8,000 coins. Coins were possibly considered payment for killing animals when hunting.

The Celtic people often viewed water as a deity or a gateway to the deities and ancestors. The Greek deities often spoke to mortals in dreams, and the Romans put healing sanctuaries by fresh water, so this type of sanctuary may not have been a native Celtic concept. This complex grew very popular in later Roman rule, but we do not know what it meant to pre-Roman Britons.

In later Arthurian literature, Nodens may be the inspiration for the Fisher King.

Nudd “mist” Pronounced: Neeth and Llud Pronounced: Lleeth

Nudd and Llud known to us from  from the Mabinogi are later developments of Nodens. Nudd is most famous for being the father of ruler of Annwn, Gwyn ap Nudd. Llud is father of Gwyn’s lady love Creiddylad (pronounced kray-DU-ladd), the most beautiful maiden in Britain. Gwyn’s rival is Gwythyr (pronounced GWEE-thr). Lludd is considered by many scholars to be the same as Nudd, making Creiddylad Gwyn’s sister. Perhaps before the Christian influence on these folk tales Gwyn and Creiddylad were a typical brother -sister and husband -wife (or lovers) duo, like Osiris and Isis, Zeus and Hera and FreyR and Freyja.

Nuada Pronounced: NOO-adh-a, also: NOO-uh-thuh (ancient), NOO-uh (modern)

“No-one escaped from the sword of Nuada after he had been wounded by it, and when it was drawn from its warlike scabbard, no-one could resist against him who had it in his hand.” – “The Four Jewels of the Tuatha Dé Danann” The Yellow Book of Lecan

In Lebor Gabála Érenn (pronounced LEV-ar GA-vah-la ER-inn, in English “The Book of the Taking of Ireland”) Nuada was an early King of the Tuatha De Danann (pronounced TOO-ah-hah djay DAH-nahn). With a broad chest and blonde hair, he owned one of the four treasures of the Tuatha De Danann, a magical sword that always gave victory to the warrior using it. A prophet and warrior, he was King when the Tuatha De Danann landed in Ireland. He’s the son of Echtach. Nuada has at least two children, a daughter Echtga of the mountain Slieve Aughty and a son Tadg Mor, from the Hill of Allen. He may be the grandfather of the Irish and Scottish hero Fionn Mac Cumhaill.

In the First Battle of Moytura (pronounced Moy Tura) his arm was cut off by a Fir Bolg warrior. The Fir Bolg King Eochaid predicted this would happen, describing the Tuatha De Danann as a flock of black birds. The Tuatha De Danann still won the battle and the Fir Bolg disappeared to the western isles off Connaught. (The western isles are often Otherworldly.) Dian Cecht and Credne made Nuada a silver arm and he became known as Nuada Airgetlamh (pronounced AR-gad-LAHV), Nuada of the Silver Hand. However, a king could not have any spiritual, emotional, mental or physical blemishes so Nuada had to step down. Bres took his place. When Bres was removed as king, Nuada became king again. Then he was killed by Balor, Lugh‘s Fomorian grandfather. As death doesn’t seem to apply to the deities, Nuada managed to rule for 20 more years.

Nuada’s name is linguistically connected to the Roman British God Nodens who had a healing spa. Another of Nuada’s names is Nuada Necht, suggesting a connection to the Gaelic God Nechtan, the God of the Well of Wisdom. This would make Nuada also a healer and a keeper of Wisdom. At first glance he may seem like only a warrior king but like the typical Celtic God there are many other layers to him. His marriage to the important Sovereignty Goddess Macha shows he is worthy of ruling.

Prayer to Nuada for Accepting Loss by Heather Awen

Once like you, old king of Danu’s children, I held power,
More than I do today.
Once like you, silver-armed Nuada, I had freedom,
More than I do today.
I pray to you, first king from the north, ancient leader of the Gods,
To have acceptance of my current situation,
Not to let it take my identity, but to merely accept this as merely one turn by the wheel of fate.
(Do we hear the Morrigan’s caw, and does that make you smile? Knowing
That the Goddess of destiny reminds us that her story for us is never over?)
Did you lose the power of kingship and control over the Tuatha De Danann? Yes, and yet
Did you lose your skill as a chieftain, your wisdom as a sorcerer?
Never!
Did you lose your arm, the one that led you and your family through many a battle? Yes, and yet
Did you lose your power as a warrior, your ability to provide and heal?
Again, we know the answer true!
Never!
What makes you, you, fair Nuada, is not a title, a position of power,
To be given and taken away, or
A body at the peak of perfection. No, that which makes you
You is your knowledge that the self is a glamour spell across the mind,
Filled with labels, beliefs and judgments that are
Not real, that change and shift
With new perceptions, such as how
A metal arm may be great in its own way
And a defeat may be a step towards a more important win in the long-term.
To hold lightly the sense of self and control,
You teach,
For we are more than external circumstances,
Greater than the stubborn illusions about identity to which our frightened minds may cling.
Instead you teach that there is life after what feels like death,
That change is inevitable,
And the wheel of fate will turn again,
And it’s best to stay at the calm center of the wheel
Than its spinning edges where the world is a blur of ups and downs.
Bring me to that calm center, Nuada of the silver arm,
Lead me to the wise acceptance that change is perspective
At least as much as situation
So I may know the greater pattern
And keep my balance no matter how the wheel may turn.

A Possible Ritual

Some readers have stated that they like actual ritual instructions. Xákwōm Népōt and the deities who continue spreading His Otherworldly fiery water have very specific rules about purity. This is physical and ethical, so if you have broken any vows, the root of relationships, late November is the time to make amends. Many tribal people have holy times for healing grudges and gossip in the community. Perhaps late November could be ours.

You could fast in a common way for Romans in the 1st century CE by not eating meat except for fish, abstaining from sex the night before and not drinking alcoholic beverages. (The diluted wine actually purified their drinking water and had a low alcohol content. We have better water purification – I hope.)

For your ritual, if you actually have a well or know where a spring emerges, make that your focus. Otherwise an altar with images and symbols of the deity is where you can make your offerings. A beeswax candle (which naturally purifies the air and smells a bit like honey) could be lit. You may want a container that won’t rust or leak as your sacred well of purified water. With the two primordial elements of the Celts and the fiery water represented, an image or symbol of the deity (or deities) being honored can also be added. If you and no one in your building doesn’t have asthma, burning herbs and resins on a charcoal made for incense could be added, using ones for purification. If you will be using an invocation or other poetry in the ritual, you might want to stash it someplace close and dry.

Clean the ritual space with nontoxic products. Baking soda gently scrubs everything from dishes, ovens to porcelain sinks. White distilled vinegar cleans glass and removes grease for shine. Both remove odors. Olive oil, fresh lemon juice and a little water cleans and protects wood furniture. Dr Bronner’s liquid castile soap cleans everything: add a bit to a bucket of warm water and some white distilled vinegar for mopping most floors. Add infusions of herbs that purify.

Clean yourself only with things you can safely eat. Honey washes off easily, is antimicrobial, and helps both acne and dry skin. Dr Bronner’s liquid castile soap diluted works great for hair and body. Baking soda is a safe exfoilant and a very tiny amount diluted in 8 ounces of water rubbed into the roots of the hair and rinsed away removes excess oil. Epson salts in a bath actually helps you detox through your skin and eases sore muscles. Hair rinse of apple cider vinegar makes it shiny. For dry skin and hair there’s everything from the light jojoba oil to rich shea butter, with olive or coconut oil in the mid-range. (Coconut oil on damp frizzy hair dries into ringlets.) There’s lots of recipes for nontoxic cleaning and body care, to which you can add herbal infusions, oils and salves.

Before you begin check that you have your offerings, matches, and any written praise poetry or invocations needed for the rite. (Hester Butler-Ehle has written fantastic ones!) Center, ground and shield. Keep your exhales long and do not hold your breath after the inhale. Droning instruments or rattles and bells (perhaps sewn on your clean clothing) may put you in a light trance state as you begin. Approach your altar or well respectfully, in a beeswax candlelit procession if possible. Circle it three times sunwise (clockwise). Offering ideas include but are not limited to: coins, ceramic, metal, glass and wooden images of fish, hounds and tridents, plus jewelry of the same materials. (Make sure that the ceramic glaze is safe – if it’s for holding food, you’re good. Also older metal pewter sometimes contains lead, which is really poisonous. With a deity based on purity, it’s even more important to not poison the soil or water.)

 

Bibliography

Butler-Ehle, Hester, Fieldstones: New Shoots from Stony Soil. Fieldstone Hearth

Daimler, Morgan, Pagan Portals: Irish Paganism: Reconstructing Irish Polytheism. Moon Books (2015)

Davies, Sioned, editor and translator, The Mabinogion. Oxford World’s Classics (2007)

Gibbons, Miael and Myles Gibbons, The Brú: A Hiberno-Roman Cult Site at Newgrange? emania 23 (2016)

Gregory, Lady, Gods and Fighting Men: The Story of the Tuatha De Danann and of the Fianna of Ireland. Public Domain (1905)

Haussler, Ralph, How to identify Celtic religion(s) in Roman Britain and Gaul, Divinidades indigenas em analise, J. d’Encarnacao (ed), (2008)

Haussler, Ralph, Interpretatatio Indigena: Re-Inventing Local Cults in a Global World, Mediterraneo Antico, xv, 1-2 (2012)

Hugh, Cristof and Mokina Kondziella, Textile symbolism in Early Iron Age burials, Connecting Elites and Regions: Perspectives on contacts, relations, and differentiation during the Early Iron Age Hallstatt C period in Northeast and Central Europe, Robert Schumann and Sasja van du Vaar-Verschoof (eds), University Hamberg (2017)

Jones, Mary (ed), Jones’ Celtic Encyclopedia, http://www.maryjones.us/jce/jce_index.html

Khilhaug, Maria, The Maiden with the Mead, Masters thesis, University of Oslo (spring 2004)

L. Vitellius Triarius, Meditations on the Roman Deities: A Guide for the Modern Practitioner. CreateSpace (2013)

Laurie, Erynn Rowan, The Well of Five Streams: Essays on Celtic Paganism. A Megalithica Books Publication, An imprint of Immanion Press (2015)

Laurie, Erynn Rowan, The Preserving Shrine, http://www.seanet.com/~inisglas/

Nova Roma, http://www.novaroma.org/nr/Roman_religion

Noyer, Rolf, PIE Dieties and the Sacred, Proto-Indo-European Language and Society

Serith, Ceisiwr, Deep Ancestors: Practicing the Religion of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. ADF Druidry (2007)

Sjoestedt, Marie-Louise, translated by Myles Dillon, Celtic Gods and Heroes. Dover (2000)

Willoughby, Harold R., A Study of Mystery Initiations in the Graeco-Roman World (1929)

Online Index to the Lebor Gabála Érenn (Book of Invasions) based on R.A.S. Macalister’s translations and notes, https://celt.ucc.ie//indexLG.html

 

December Pagan Holy Days Resource

Onje Keon Pierce Gullveig Press logo
Gullveig Press logo design by Onje Keon Pierce

Gullveig Press sends an 18 page detailed polytheist calendar with dates of new (NOT dark) and full moons, Mercury Retrograde and lots of information about other Pagan cultures’ division of the year, month and week to incarcerated prisons for $2.25. But if you are pen pals with a Pagan in prison, you can copy each month’s calendar from this blog, print and mail! Make sure that you included the Introduction to the Calendar so they can understand the Athens calendar, the Julian calendar and have the dates for the new and full moon. Thank you for doing this work for your pen pal!!

Gullveig Press Pagan Festival Calendar by Heather Awen, author of “Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners” Gullveig Press, PO Box 126, St Johnsbury, VT 05819, 556 pages, $12 includes shipping.

The Anglo-Saxons called December and January Yule.
In one Yoruban region of Nigeria, Ogun, the Orisha who literally is iron, traditionally had an annual December Festival.
The Romans held a ritual for Neptune on December 1.
On the 3rd Roman women held a private rite for Bona Dea (“Good Goddess”), the earth fertility Goddess. Her priestess was called Damiatrix. There was a play, music, wine called “mother’s milk” and an offering of a pig. In this Mystery rite, sacred objects were shown to women only.
The 4th is dedicated to the Orisha of thunder, justice and courage Chango who repels all enemies and negativity.
Rural Romans asked Faunus, God of wilderness, on December 5 to bless the countryside and farmland. Worshipers built altars of sod where incense burned, made wine and other sacrifices and then joyfully danced in the fields. The Hymn to Faunus: “Guarantee me a fertile and bountiful year, and I will not fail in pouring a libation of wine to you… The valley resonates with the beat of music and dancing feet in your honor.”
On December 8th the Geledé Iyamí Oxorongá & Eshu Agbo festival is held in Brazil. An ancient mask ritual from the Yoruba people of Nigeria, it celebrates the power of sexuality. The Iyamí are the female Orishas and mothers, often called birds, while phallic Eshu represents male sexuality. Later under the influence of Christianity, the Iyamí became associated with evil witchcraft.
During the waning moon of the November-December lunar month was the Haloa, a fertility celebration of Demeter, Kore (a young Goddess similar to Persephone) and Dionysos in Athens. The new wine was tasted and a vegetarian feast (with fish) was served. Women brought models of female and male genitals and had raunchy, erotic discussions.
The lunar cycle of December-January was a very popular time for weddings in Greece.
On December 13 (or full moon) the Roman Senate honored the earth Goddess Tellus. Ceres, Goddess of grains, also received a banquet.
The 15th (or full moon) was dedicated to Roman God of the storage bin of harvested grain, Consus. His sacred animal the mule had races, while other mules, horses and donkeys rested with garlands around their necks.
On the 17th the Orisha Babalu-Aye is honored, for He grants healing especially of skin conditions, looks over those with smallpox and HIV/AIDS and brings us the abundance of the earth.
Rome’s Saturnalia, held from December 17 to 23, reminded people of the Golden Age of Saturn, a time of peace and prosperity. The statue of Saturn in His temple normally was bound, but He was freed now. After sacrifices held at Saturn’s temple, Romans changed into comfortable clothing for the banquet. For the next week official business stopped and stores closed, while parties and feasting took their place. As a misrule festival that allowed the oppressed some release, role reversals occurred: masters waited on children and slaves, while children and slaves led the rituals and attended the festivities. Pine boughs and wreaths hung over doorways and windows, with ornaments of stars, sun symbols and the 2 faces of Janus. Gifts were given, especially on Sigillaria, the last day of the Saturnalia. Saturn’s wife Ops (“plenty”) was honored on the 19th.
A couple days before the December-January full moon and continuing for 4 to 9 days was the Greek Lenaia (“feast of vats”). Statues of Dionysus Leneus were dressed in ivy and He received sacrifices. Attending the theatre was a large part of the holiday.
Roman festival for Epona was honored by the military horsemen on December 18. Epona is a Gaulish horse Goddess whose image was kept in stables and barns. Not only the protector of horses, She led people to the Afterlife.
December 21 is the Roman Angeronalia, a day of sacrifices to Angerona, Goddess of disease angina. Angerona also causes and stops anguish and anxiety. Her mouth is bound, because Jupiter covered it when Angerona told Juno of His infidelity. Jupiter ordered Mercury to take Angerona to Hades. Mercury seduced Angerona, and in the Underworld She gave birth to the Lares (household protectors). The Divalia was the secret rite of Angerona.
On the 23rd funeral rites were performed before the tomb of Roman Goddess Larentina, who may be connected with the Lares (household protectors). Offerings to Di Manes (the dead) were made by Priests.
The same day Dea Tacita (“silent Goddess”), an earth Goddess, received offerings in Her grove.
Yule is a Norse 12 day celebration of returning sunlight that starts on the night of the Winter Solstice or the evening of December 24. In Germany Frau Holle demands that all spinning be put away for the 12 days of Yule. Some Heathens interpret this to mean that there should be no work done during Yule. It probably has to do with the weaving of the new year’s fate by the Norns in this transitional time. The Yule log was as big as a tree, decorated with garlands of greenery and carried to the house in a happy procession. (Some Scandinavians lived in “long houses” which held a couple dozen people or more.) The log burned for 12 days. Pork, Frey‘s sacred animal, is eaten, with the belief that wishes said over it will be carried to the Gods.
The Anglo-Saxons called December 24 “Mothers Night.” Some Pagans speculate that it was to honor the Disir, the female ancestors; others think that it continues the worship of the popular Celtic-German Matres (“Mothers”), and others connect them with the three Norns, the Norse Goddesses of destiny. Each family is said to have their own Norns, who may be the Disir.
On December 25th ancient Romans celebrated Bruma, the winter solstice. In 273 CE it became the sacred day of Sol Invictus (“Unconquered Sun”), patron of soldiers. Emperor Constantine decreed Sunday a day of rest: “On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed.” Sol Invictus probably was imported from Syria. He is associated with the popular military God imported from Persia Mithras and the date may have become His birthday.
December 31st is commonly the Festival of the Yoruban Orixa Yemaya in Brazil. As the sun sets, people release little boats to the Pacific Ocean. The boats hold flowers, pastries, jewellery, white candles and other gifts to Yemaya.

 

If we’ve missed a traditional Pagan festival please let us know! Include information about the festival and the source of the information.

October Pagan Holy Days Resource

Onje Keon Pierce Gullveig Press logo
Gullveig Press logo design by Onje Keon Pierce

Gullveig Press sends an 18 page detailed polytheist calendar with dates of new (NOT dark) and full moons, Mercury Retrograde and lots of information about other Pagan cultures’ division of the year, month and week to incarcerated prisons for $2.25. But if you are pen pals with a Pagan in prison, you can copy each month’s calendar from this blog, print and mail! It’s usually posted on the 23rd so it arrives in time sent by snail mail.

Make sure that you included the Introduction to the Calendar so they can understand the Athens calendar, the Julian calendar and have the dates for the new and full moon. Thank you for doing this work for your pen pal!!

Gullveig Press Pagan Festival Calendar by Heather Awen, author of “Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners” Gullveig Press, PO Box 126, St Johnsbury, VT 05819, 556 pages, $12 includes shipping.

The Anglo-Saxon name for October translates into “Winter Nights.”
October comes from octo-, meaning 8. When the Roman year started in March, October was the 8th month. This also explains September (7), November (9) and December (10).
Roman Goddess Fides (“Good Faith”) was honored on October 1st (or the new moon). Fides was concerned with faithful relationships between deities and mortals.
The 1st is dedicated to the Orisha Oya in New Orleans Voodoo.
The dark moon of the September-October lunar cycle was the Chalkeia in Athens. Artisans offered baskets of grain to Greek smith God Hephaestus and the patroness of artisans Athene Ergane (“workwoman”). Weaving Athene’s robe for next year’s Panathenaia began.
October 4 is a day of fasting in honor of Roman grain Goddess Ceres. The next day the Pit of Ceres was opened for the second time of the year. The manes (the dead) could leave the Underworld. Businesses closed and weddings and battles were forbidden.
On the 7th Jupiter Fulgur (“Jupiter of daytime lightning”) and Juno Curitis were honored by Romans.
October 9th is the birthday of the Heathen Queen Sigrid the Proud. She refused to convert to Christianity to marry a powerful king, saying others may choose Christianity, but she would continue the religion of her ancestors. He called her a Heathen bitch and tried to kidnap and rape her, but her soldiers defeated him. She swore revenge. She married another king who later would be involved with her former suitor’s death. Heathens honor her commitment to her religion; women honor her for not changing just to get married. She may have been Polish royalty.
The Meditrinalia (“to heal”) on October 11 celebrates the end of Roman grape harvests. The God receiving offerings was probably Jupiter. Ill people made a libation of new and old wine, hoping that tasting it would cure them.
The 15th is dedicated to the Orisha Oya in New Orleans Voodoo.
On October 15 two-horse chariot races were held to honor Mars.
Winter Nights was an important holiday in Iceland, held in October, perhaps on a Thursday near the full moon after the autumn equinox. A blot was held for the Disir (female ancestors and perhaps Valkyries and Goddesses).
Rome held the Armilustrium on October 19 as the war campaign season ended. Mars was honored and the soldiers and their weapons, polluted by having killed other humans, were purified.
In 1st century CE Rome, initiation into the Mystery Religion of Isis took place during October 28-November 3. A beautiful procession was lead by initiates in fancy clothing. A female chorus in white spread flowers on the path. Next came the people carrying torches, then musicians, followed by a youth choir dressed in white. “Make way for the goddess,” Priests and Priestesses yelled. More people already initiated came next, wearing white linen. Men were shaved bald and women wore white silk veils. They rattled a sistrum (a ritual instrument kind of like a metal tambourine). The rituals of the Isia were secret. The devotees probably reenacted Isis’s grief as She searched for Her murdered husband, the green Underworld God of barley Osiris, and then Her joy when She recovered His severed body. With Her Magick Isis put Osiris back together and had sex, conceiving the important God Horus. Like the other Mystery Religions, it guaranteed a deity’s help and a great Afterlife. At an older time Romans prepared a model ship for Isis, Goddess of the life-giving Nile River. Devotees purified the boat with flame, egg, sulfur and chanting. After the boat was filled with gifts, people poured libations of milk and grain into the water. Finally the little ship was put in the water, sailing its gifts to Isis.
Samhain is the Old Irish name for the the New Year, celebrated at the first frost or the evening of October 31 and day of November 1 with much feasting and divination. Samhain may come from the word “assembly” or “summer’s end.” Cattle and their young male protectors returned. Animals that could not be kept over winter were slaughtered and preserved. The dark half of the year began. Remains discovered at ancient British Celtic temples show that animals were sacrificed around Samhain and Beltain. The Gauls acknowledged this time as the new year, too. Called Trinoxtion Samoni (“three nights of Samhain”), it probably became involved with the rebirth festival of Isis of the Roman Empire. Samhain is a transitional time when communication with the spirits is easiest.

 

If we’ve missed a traditional Pagan festival please let us know! Include information about the festival and the source of the information.

Weekly & Lunar Pagan Holy Days Resource

Onje Keon Pierce Gullveig Press logo
Gullveig Press logo design by Onje Keon Pierce

Gullveig Press sends an 18 page detailed polytheist calendar with dates of new (NOT dark) and full moons, Mercury Retrograde and lots of information about other Pagan cultures’ division of the year, month and week, to incarcerated prisons for $2.25. But if you are pen pals with a Pagan in prison, you can copy each month’s calendar from this blog, print and mail! It is posted on the 22nd or 23rd usually.

This is our “Weekly and Lunar Calendar” with new and full moon dates.

Make sure that you included the Introduction to the Calendar so they can understand the Athens calendar, the Julian calendar and other important information. Thank you for doing this work for your pen pal!!

Gullveig Press Pagan Festival Calendar by Heather Awen, author of “Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners” Gullveig Press, PO Box 126, St Johnsbury, VT 05819, 556 pages, $12 includes shipping.

In some of West and Central Africa the week is five days long, with six weeks forming a month. The names of the days of the Yoruban week are: 1. Ako-ojo. (First day.) 2. Ojo-awo. (Day of the Secret, sacred to Ifa). 3. Ojo-Ogun. (Ogun‘s Day.) 4. Ojo-Shango. (Shango‘s Day.) 5. Ojo-Obatala. (Obatala‘s Day.) To use this religious calendar, start at the new (not dark) moon. Then divide the 30 day lunar month into six weeks of five days.
Most days of the week are named after Roman deities or Their corresponding deities in Germanic Paganism. Sunday is for Sol Invictus or Norse Goddess Sunna who drives the sun’s chariot. Monday is for Roman moon Goddess Luna or the moon’s chariot driver, Norse God Mani. Tuesday is dedicated to Mars, war God who originally defended the boundaries the farm and the young city of Rome, or Tyr, Norse God associated with the laws that preserve society including duels. Wednesday is named for the messenger of the Gods Mercury, who rules over travel, commerce, communication, trickery, leading the dead and (through His association with Greek God Hermes) Magick, and Anglo-Saxon Woden (Odin), God of Magick, trickery, communication and death. (The most important day in Saxon Pagan England was Wednesday. Germans just call this Middle Day because Woden’s worship continued in Christian times.) Thursday (the most important day in Heathen Iceland) is devoted to Roman sky father Jupiter and Norse Thor, thunder God and friend of farmers. Friday is named after the Roman love and fertility Goddess Venus and the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of marriage (which meant managing a huge household) and spinning the yarn of fate, Frigga. Saturday is dedicated to Saturn, the God of right agricultural timing, limitations and structure. It became the Jewish and early Christian church’s Sabbath (day of rest), so in Heathen Iceland it was known as the day for doing laundry!
The Yoruban Orisha Eshu Ellegua and Haitian Vodou lwa Legba (originally from Kingdom of Dahomey) are always the first spirits to be honored in ceremonies, for They allow offerings to reach the other Orishas or lwas. When West Africans were forced into European culture, Their worship became Monday, 1st day of the week. (In many Catholic nations the last day of the week is Sunday, because in their mythology God rested on the last day on the week.)
Obatala/ Oxala is the Yoruban “white Orisha” of purity, divine order, wisdom and the sky often honored on Friday in Brazil, where Orisha is spelled Orixa.
Nana is a Vodoun (“deity”) from Dahomey often included in Brazilian Orixa religions. Mother of Dahomey’s deities, She is a grandmotherly, dignified, patient water Orixa often honored on Tuesday.
Omula, also known as Sopaka, Babalu-Aiye and other names, is Orixa of the earth, healing and smallpox. He’s also associated with HIV/AIDS and honored on Monday by many in Brazil.
Yemaya/ Iamanja (originally a Nigerian river Goddess) is the Yoruban Orixa of the ocean, sometimes considered the mother of the Orixas, honored in much of Brazil on Saturday.
Ogun, the Yoruban Orixa who is iron and all the farming tools and weapons it makes, is associated with soldiers, surgery, liberation, employment and clearing paths. He’s honored by many Brazilians on Tuesday. He is the ex-husband of Oya and also worshiped in Dahomey and Haitian Vodoun.
Chango/ Xango is the Orixa of thunder, law, justice, courage and was once king of the Yoruban city-state Oyo, honored on Wednesday by many Brazilians. He is married to Oya, Oshun and Oba.
Oshun/ Oxun is the Osun River in Nigeria. Yoruban Orixa of love, diplomacy, the arts, beauty and fertility, seductive Oshun is associated with fresh water, especially rivers, and often honored on Saturday by Brazilians.
Oya/ Yansa (originally the long Niger River, important for trade) is the Yoruban Orixa of the marketplace, cemetery, tornado, lightning and guide of the dead, honored on Wednesday in much of Brazil.
Ochossi/ Oxossi, the protective Yoruban Orixa of hunting and justice, is often honored in Brazil on Thursday.
Ossain is Orixa of magical and medicinal herbalism who lives in the woods, honored by some Brazilians on Saturday.
The loving rainbow serpent who changes genders is known as Oxumare in Brazil and often honored on Tuesday.
Pomba Gira spirits of Brazilian Umbanda are usually given offerings on Monday. Exu spirits of Umbanda are usually given offerings at midnight on Fridays.
The New Orleans Voodoo Saint Expedite is usually petitioned for help on Wednesdays.
Some occultists time their spells on days that are associated with different planets or spirits that support their Magickal intention.

In Roman tradition Juno is worshipped on the 1st of each month, originally the new crescent moon.
In the Scottish Highlands, people turned over silver coins in their pockets and praised the new moon when they first saw Her. The new moon was considered the most fortunate day and people often received hair cuts then.
A Celtic tribe in Portugal famous for its ferocity and hospitality worshiped a God whose name is lost to us. On the full moon an animal sacrifice was made at the front door of each home in His honor.

The only full Greek calendar we have is for the city-state Athens. The new year started on the new moon after the summer solstice. Start keeping track of the Greek lunar months from then. The first day of the month is Noumenia, when the crescent moon is first spotted. It was the holiest of days, when all deities received offerings. The deities prefer simple offerings like bread. On the next day offerings were made to Agathos Daimon (“Good Spirit”). He is a protective, generous household snake spirit. Day 3 was dedicated to the Goddess of all skills including military strategy Athene, Goddess of Athens.
Day 4 honored one hero, Herakles, and 3 deities: God of commerce, communication and Magick Hermes; imported romantic love Goddess Aphrodite, from a long tradition of Middle Eastern Goddesses of the planet Venus (the Morning Star and Evening Star) like Astarte, Ishtar and the ancient original, the Sumerian Inanna. (Hebrew followers of jealous Yahweh destroyed their version of this Goddess’s sacred groves); and Eros, love God who later because associated with homosexual relationships between older and younger men.
Day 5 was a break. Day 6 was dedicated to the worship of the virgin Goddess of midwives, Artemis, who hunts in the wild woodlands with Her band of nymphs. On day 7 Her bisexual twin brother Apollon, God of music, healing and prophecy, received His sacrifices. On day 8 the river, sea, earthquake and horse God Poseidon and the hero who founded Athens, Theseus, were honored. On the 30th day (dark moon) the imported Goddess of witchcraft Hekate was left food offerings at Y-shaped crossroads. Poor people took the food home after the ritual.

After Sunday Mass, Marie LaVeau the elder led dances in New Orleans’ Congo Square that mocked racism and politicians. She swayed in one place, moving with the snake wrapped around her, entering a deep trance. Slaves and free people of color danced to the drums and left offerings of food, drink and 3 coins for the spirits and the poor.

2019-2020 New & Full Moons The Dark Moon is the day before the New Moon. Remember that the new moon was determined by when it was first sighted. The new moon dates here obviously have not yet been seen by anyone because they are in the future. However, they should be a good prediction of when a Priest would see the first crescent moon if the sky was clear. During the full moon police and hospitals report more crime and accidents.

New Sat August 3 2019, Full August 15
New Sun September 1 2019, Full September 14
New Mon September 30 2019, Full October 13
New Wed October 30 2019, Full November 12
New Thu November 28 2019, Full December 12
New Sat December 28 2019, Full Jan 10 2020
New January 25 2020, Full February 9 2020
New February 24, Full March 9 2020
New March 25, Full April 8 2020
New April 24, Full May 7 2020
New May 23, Full June 5 2020
New June 22, Full July 5 2020
New July 21, Full August 3 2020
New August 20, Full September 2 2020
New September 18, Full October 1 2020
New October 17, Full October 31 2020
New November 16, Full November 30 2020
New December 15, Full December 30 2020

 

If we’ve missed a traditional Pagan festival please let us know! Include information about the festival and the source of the information.

 

Steel Bars, Sacred Water is available directly from Gullveig Press at a lower price than at Amazon. All proceeds go to sending free copies to incarcerated Pagans. We have special bulk order and prison clergy/ volunteer prices and Australian discounts, as Amazon Australia does not carry the book. We will happily buy a prisoner a copy if you donate $12 U.S.! And remember to donate used paperbacks on almost any topic to your nearest books-to-prisoners organization. Many prisoners are functionally illiterate, so your donation will improve on average seven prisoners ability to read per book!

September Pagan Holy Days Resource

Onje Keon Pierce Gullveig Press logo
Gullveig Press logo design by Onje Keon Pierce

Gullveig Press sends an 18 page detailed polytheist calendar with dates of new (NOT dark) and full moons, Mercury Retrograde and lots of information about other Pagan cultures’ division of the year, month and week to incarcerated prisons for $2.25. But if you are pen pals with a Pagan in prison, you can copy each month’s calendar from this blog, print and mail! It’s usually posted on the 23rd so you have a week for sending by snail mail.

Make sure that you included the Introduction to the Calendar so they can understand the Athens calendar, the Julian calendar and have the dates for the new and full moon.

Thank you for doing this work for your pen pal! Gullveig Press is pretty swamped with projects – we just found an inmate with perfect spelling and grammar who has never used a computer to be our copy editor! While he’s in training and snail mail carries our work back and forth, it’s great that other individuals and groups are helping those in prison who can neither find nor afford decent Pagan resources. You rock!

The Anglo-Saxon name for September translates into “holy month,” possibly due to the many harvests.
The full moon started the very popular Greek Great Mysteries of Eleusis, a secretive initiation of rebirth that guaranteed a good Afterlife. It was based on Greek grain Goddess Demeter’s search for Her daughter Persephone.
On the 7th the Orisha Yemaya is celebrated for easing of sorrow, fertility, nurturing and protection of the home.
During September 6th to the 19th, Jupiter Optimus Maximus was celebrated with the Ludi Romani, the famous games of Rome. On the 13th (or full moon) a sacrifice was made to Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, whose statues were dressed for the occasion. Tables of food were set before Them. The event was attended by every Senator.
A couple days before the dark moon, one neighborhood of Athens made sacrifices to Gaia, Greek Earth Mother, Hermes, and the nymphs (female nature spirits who are the daughters of Gaia or Zeus).
The 8th is sacred to Orisha Oshun as Our Lady of Charity.
Around the 6th day of the September-October lunar month, Athens may have offered some of the last year’s grain to Demeter before ploughing and sowing again.
Also around this time was a race held for Dionysos, Greek God of grapes and wine.
The 15th is sacred to Haitian lwa of romance and beauty Erzuli Freda.
On the 1st quarter moon of the September-October lunar cycle in Eleusis, Apollon was given sheep, male goat meat and other foods. A new eiresione (a sacred fertility symbol) was made and kept by the front door. An eiresione is an olive branch wound with wool yarn with hanging models of figs, cakes and jars of honey.
The next day Athens made offerings to the legendary Amazons.
After the September rye harvest, Lithuanian women would braid some grain tufts and lay the braid over an offering of bread and salt, saying, “Davei manei, Žemele, duodame ir tau.” (You gave for us, Mother Earth, we are giving for you, too.)

During the days before the full moon in the September-October lunar cycle, Greeks honored Demeter at the Thesmophoria, one of the rare times women could leave home without a male escort. Piglets, pine boughs and bread shaped like snakes and phalluses were offered on the first day. The next day women fasted, then feasted on the third and last day, drinking pomegranate juice. Goddess of a beautiful birth, Kalligeneia, was also worshiped.
Thesmophoria was celebrated throughout the Mediterranean for a long time. In Sicily its Priestesses were older, respectable women from noble families. A month before the rite they offered pigs to Ceres. On the first day of Thesmophoria a procession of women walked to the ritual huts where they stayed during the ritual. A Priestess had gathered the rotting remains of the pigs, which were put on the altar. The women mourned for Persephone. Reenacting Ceres searching for Persephone, the next night they wandered with torches, calling out at crossroads. On the last day they danced and sang and had feast which included phallic-shaped cakes, but forbid pomegranates.
On September 25th the Orisha Obatala of wisdom and purity is often honored in Lucumi.
According to Roman records, a Germanic tribe held a ritual on September 29 dedicated to a Goddess named Zisa in gratitude for victory. Popular theory thinks Zisa is wife of Tyr, who then was the sky father of the Germanic deities.
On the 29th the lwa Damballa Wedo is honored by those involved with Spiritualist Voodoo.
From September 29 to November 10, Latvian dead called Veļi were invited home for a feast. A male elder called the names of all the ancestors who had lived in the house that the living remembered. The spirits were scolded for not having helped the household enough and asked to do better this coming year. Together, the living and dead shared a meal. The dead were then rushed out, the house cleaned and, to protect the living, dirt was thrown in water.

If we’ve missed a traditional Pagan festival please let us know! Include information about the festival and the source of the information.

Pagan Holy Days Calendar (Prisoner Resource)

Onje Keon Pierce Gullveig Press logo
Gullveig Press logo design by Onje Keon Pierce

Hi! Gullveig Press sends an 18 page polytheist calendar to incarcerated Pagans for $2.25. However, if you have a Pagan pen pal in prison, we’d love for you to copy each month’s holidays and send them to your friend! Just tell them it’s from Heather Awen at Gullveig Press, please, and mention Steel Bars, Sacred Waters. (I even put that information at the beginning of the Introduction!) Each month’s calendar will be posted at least a week before the month begins. Snail mail can really sometimes be very slow.

Who needs an introduction to a calendar? Pagans! We’re working with lunar months, the Julian calendar and lots of stuff that doesn’t fit into our Gregorian calendar easily. Someone working with this calendar will need the new and full moon dates, which are at the end of this post.

I got the idea for this large project when someone in prison asked me about some very made-up holidays of Mabinogi deities. Evidently a group of Pagans were sending out a free calendar zine but not explaining that they invented it. It’s great to see other Pagans looking out for our incarcerated members of our community! But I hear the same complaints: Why can’t we get researched, high quality Pagan information? When you send information to people in prison tell them if it’s just your personal way or something your tradition does. If you researched using academic peer -reviewed papers, well-regarded modern polytheists’ blogs and books and history books from several decades, please tell them that the information is subject to change or it’s one theory. Help them understand that scholars constantly find new information and interpret old information in new ways.

The education system utterly failed many of these people which is why donating fiction and graphic novels along with non-fiction serious reading materials gives them a chance. Many are functionally illiterate which means that they can’t get a job that requires filling out an application or read well enough to be promoted to supervisors and other better paying positions.

(Dictionaries are the most requested books in prison. If your pen pal has some trouble writing and reading, consider buying them the inexpensive, new paperback Merriam-Webster Dictionary from Amazon. If mailing to Ohio state prisons, check from where prisoners can receive books since Amazon was banned recently. For all facilities it’s best to check anyway! Prisoners don’t have spell check or Wikipedia so a dictionary is helpful in general.)

If you send books and essays, discuss them in letters. Encourage their opinions and show your critical thinking skills. Ask them questions and show interest in their answers. Most have been convinced that they’re stupid when they just haven’t had anyone pay attention to how they learn and teach more about how to learn.

Introduction

Gullveig Press Pagan Festival Calendar by Heather Awen, author of “Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners” Gullveig Press, PO Box 126, St Johnsbury, VT 05819, 556 pages, $12 includes shipping.

There is a Pagan zine listing holy days for deities based on nothing historical. Frankly, the days are made up. The truth is that most ancient Pagan cultures used a lunar calendar AND a solar one. This means that the dates won’t match our calendar.

Ever notice that Jewish and Muslim holy times start on different solar days each year? They still follow traditional lunar calenders. Hinduism does the same. So does Easter. Our ancient Pagan calendars also had lunar festivals that happened at different times each solar year. Plus, each tribe, city or kingdom had their own variations and regional deities. Not all German tribes worshipped Hariasa, but we know She defended the city of Cologne. Each city in Egypt and Greece had their own mythology from before the cities were unified into Empires. In the huge Roman Empire, people often honored the deities of where they were born, the deities of where they had moved and the Imperial deities that everyone celebrated. Multicultural diversity in polytheism is normal.

The lunar year and solar cycle don’t match. It takes about 29 and 1/2 days for the moon to circle the Earth. It takes the Earth about 364 and 1/4 days to circle the Sun. A year of 12 lunar months leaves many days of the solar year not included in a calendar. This was solved kind of like how we fix the difference between our solar calendar and the real amount of time it takes for the Earth to circle the sun: we add an extra day to February each Leap Year. Ancients had their own versions of “Leap Year” usually by adding an extra month. Celtic Gauls in modern France had a five solar year calendar with 29 and 30 day long months. Periodically, an extra month was added so the lunar and solar calendars matched. The only complete Greek calendar we have is from the city-state Athens, which includes an extra month every 3rd, 6th and 8th year.

As in Islam, the Pagan month usually started at the first sighting of the new moon. New moons aren’t dark moons. The new moon is a slight crescent in the sky. The dark moon is the day before that when the moon never appears. Most astrological sources for the new moon actually are dates of the dark moon. The first Roman calendar was lunar and months began at the first sighting of the crescent moon. The first day of the Roman month is sacred to Juno, the Queen Goddess married to Jupiter. Roman holy days originally occurred from the new moon to full moon, never during the waning moon.

This calendar developed into a solar year a lot like the one we currently use. Today’s it’s called the Julian calendar. Juno’s new moon rites were moved to the first day of each solar month. Full moon sacred days were held on the 13th or 15th. Waxing moon rites were held on the 5th or 7th. We know the dates for many Roman festivals on the Julian calendar from the 1st to 3rd centuries CE.

But the Julian calendar was still not a perfect match with the actual solar year. By the late medieval era European nations were off by around 11 days. So, the modern Gregorian calendar with its Leap Year was created. The 2 calendars were 11 days apart. Different places began using the Gregorian calender at different times, causing a bit of chaos. Today we still use the Gregorian calender.

For modern Pagans seeking to worship on the same days as our spiritual ancestors, it can be tricky. Irish manuscripts stating Beltain is May 1st were written by Christian monks using the old, Julian calendar. On our Gregorian calendar Beltain is May 12th. The Anglo-Saxons first used a lunar calendar, but when they converted to Christianity they changed to the Julian calendar. The Germanic names of the Pagan months tell us what cultural events happened when in the year, but the Anglo-Saxon months also don’t exactly match with the months of our calendar.

As if this wasn’t confusing enough, until recently few Europeans other than Christian clergy were able to read. Rural people often relied on natural signs to guide them in timing rituals. The climate is different in different parts of Britain and Ireland, so agricultural events like Beltain probably happened at different times, like when the first hawthrown bush flowered. Other places looked to the stars. In Egypt when Sirius rose, people knew that the life-giving Nile River ruled by Isis would flood. Farmers in Iceland started sowing seeds when the Pleiades rose.

During a solstice the sun appears to stop moving for 3 days. This probably made people very anxious. Solstices were usually celebrated when people actually saw the sun began moving again. On December 25 and June 24 we can see that the sun’s journey has resumed. Evenings of December 24 and June 23 began many solstice celebrations.

Ancient Pagan religions were mostly communal and based on ancient traditions that almost no one questioned. Festivals in rural societies often included political and legal events. Instead of focusing on the individual, originally rites were more concerned with what kept people alive: the community and ecosystem. If Ares blessed His Greek city-state Sparta and you lived in Sparta, you were also blessed. Religion was woven into culture. Removing religion from culture unravels the ancient ways. Due to this, there’s no real way to reenact truly authentic cultural rites.

Many uprooted people in the highly mobile Roman Empire faced the same problem. One popular solution was to be initiated in secretive Mystery Religions. Replacing the old tribal community were the other initiated “brothers and sisters.” Likewise, modern people have created new initiation-based religions like Wicca and Lucumi. Others research and worship old deities, alone and sometimes in rather rare groups. Ancient rites are adapted for today’s culture. Keeping the traditional parts that work for our situation, we continue ancient religions in new variations.

What follows is a calendar based on “around when” ceremonies were held with brief explanations. Even in prison you can usually find ways to participate. Religion, for all its focus on tradition, has always been ever-changing. To stay relevant, religion must adapt to changing cultural norms, ecosystems, governments, trade partners, scientific discoveries, etc, while maintaining its cosmology (worldview).

It’s normal for polytheists to adopt deities from other cultures. The multicultural Roman Empire spread across Europe, the Mediterranean, the Near East and North Africa. Celts, Syrians, Egyptians, German mercenaries, Greeks and other peoples celebrated many Roman festivals and Romans flocked to many imported religions from other lands.

In the 1980s translation began on a 4th century CE Greek collection of Magick from the Greek-Egyptian city of Alexandria. It shocked scholars. Names of Jewish angels, secret titles for Jesus, Greek and Egyptian sacred words, symbols and deities plus parts of the Mystery Religions popular were combined in the spells. Magicians were obviously trading information, creating something new. Today Chaos Magick is similar.

As long as someone fulfills their vows to one religion, they are free to practice another. Ethnicity does not matter! The deities choose us. (New Orleans has a white Jewish vegan Voodoo Queen initiated in Haiti also trained in Western Ceremonial Magick.) Unless a rite is just for the initiated or for only men or women, worship Whomever calls you on the calendar.

The exception is the traditional religions of Native Americans. If you are invited to participate by a respected member of a tribe, that’s fine, but these ancient cultures have been raped and plundered for the benefit of white people for hundreds of years. To take more from people still literally struggling to stay alive and unassimilated into European -American culture is incredibly offensive. Cultural misappropriation pretends to value a culture while ignoring the struggles and values of the culture to make a commodity for money. Other examples include the predominantly white music industry’s treatment of African American artists, yoga classes taught as mere physical exercise without Hindu religious context and books on fictions like “Celtic Shamanism.” People in the dominant culture exploit other cultures for money without even providing financial and other practical support to those whom they’ve ripped off. Don’t be a culture vulture. If you have a traditional healing session or divination consultation with a trained African, Caribbean or Native American, pay the expected fee or what you pay a doctor.

(Today, the issue of men’s and women’s mysteries is being challenged by people born intersex (having or developing male and female genitals) or who identify as non-binary (neither male nor female). Gender was understood differently in other cultures. The Kongo Kingdoms had people Portuguese slavers called male but who demanded they were women. They had been clergy involved with funeral rites. Dahomey sold slaves who the Portuguese considered men who also insisted that they were women and wore women’s clothing. On the southern shores of the Baltic Sea 1st century CE Germanic Priests dressed in women’s clothes. Priests of the Near Eastern Goddess Cybele, in a devotional frenzy, cut off their testicles and penises as a sacrifice to their Goddess and then were dressed as women. The incredibly popular Greek God Apollon has many mythological lovers male and female. Images of people with both breasts and penises are found in Central European Celtic art. Greeks, Celts and other warrior cultures openly celebrated their gay lovers. A Roman Emperor even started a cult for his young, dead male lover that continues to have followers today. The participation of the LGBTQIA community is firmly established in ancient Paganism. However you gender or sexually identify, you’re welcomed by the majority of Pagans on the outside.)

The dates dedicated to the Orishas/ Orixas and lwas may differ from house to house. The dates honor Catholic Saints with whom West African spirits were secretly associated, but not everyone used the same Saints.

2019-2020 New & Full Moons The Dark Moon is the day before the New Moon. Remember that the new moon was determined by when it was first sighted. The new moon dates here obviously have not yet been seen by anyone because they are in the future. However, they should be a good prediction of when a Priest would see the first crescent moon if the sky was clear. During the full moon police and hospitals report more crime and accidents.

New Sat August 3 2019, Full August 15
New Sun September 1 2019, Full September 14
New Mon September 30 2019, Full October 13
New Wed October 30 2019, Full November 12
New Thu November 28 2019, Full December 12
New Sat December 28 2019, Full Jan 10 2020
New January 25 2020, Full February 9 2020
New February 24, Full March 9 2020
New March 25, Full April 8 2020
New April 24, Full May 7 2020
New May 23, Full June 5 2020
New June 22, Full July 5 2020
New July 21, Full August 3 2020
New August 20, Full September 2 2020
New September 18, Full October 1 2020
New October 17, Full October 31 2020
New November 16, Full November 30 2020
New December 15, Full December 30 2020

Celtic Festival of Herakles, Ogmios, Ogma

This is part of the Celtic polytheist calendar I’ve been developing throughout this blog. (Click on the Subject “Festival” and you’ll find them all.) Basically, since we know that the Celtic speaking tribes had quite a lot of say in which Roman deities were associated with which native deities (based on their limited understanding of Roman religion) and changed Roman practices to fit the Celtic cosmology, I thought “Maybe some Celts used the Roman Festival calendar for their own purposes.” There were a lot of changes over a few generations, including a nostalgic, self-conscious effort to be “more traditional” especially in Britain. Celtic religion has never been static. Celts constantly, of their own volition, changed cultural elements since we know of their emergence into history.

The southern Gauls adopted some Greek architectural elements. They chose to include foreign deities to their pantheon like Apollon (Roman Apollo) and Hermes from the Greeks. Later the Romans recorded that the Celtic people were big followers of the Roman demi-God Hercules. It stands to reason that they may have already known Hercules from the Greeks, in His original spelling Herakles.

And some time in August, Athens had a festival for Herakles that involved feats of strength.

Aside from the possible inclusion of Hercules to your Celtic polytheist practice, this may be a good time for honoring Ogmios and Ogma. The Greeks and Romans understood that the deities were pleased with human excellence and so they involved the best of athletic and dramatic skills in festivals. Your Ogmios or Ogma festival could involve dedicating physical exercise (like your work out, dance class or hike) to the God. You also can’t go wrong with offerings of wine (Ogmios) or ale (Ogma), pork or animal crackers, fresh water, grains, organic grass-fed dairy, glass beads, metal symbols like a chain (Ogmios) or small sword, beeswax candle, singing, reciting of poetry, praise, prayer or depicting Him yourself. You may want to have Ogma bless your Ogham set.

Ogmios

Gaulish Ogmios was portrayed as an old bald man with dark skin, armed with a bow and club, leading smiling people whose ears were chained to his tongue. The Gauls thought of Ogmios as being like their favorite Greek/Roman hero Hercules, and from this we know He was a strong and clever warrior. But for the Gauls, His strength was not just brute force; His powerful words led people to follow him cheerfully.

In one cemetery Ogmios was depicted as a companion of Erecura who usually appeared in statues with the Underworld God Dis Pater. Herakles was (among many other things) a psychopomp, so perhaps Ogmios plays a role in the Underworld. He is petitioned for help on two curse tablets, so He’s used to people in need turning to Him.

From Lucian of Samosata’s Prolalia Herakles, we get this quote from a Gaul: “We Celts do not agree with you Greeks in thinking that Hermes is Eloquence; we identify Heracles with it, because he is far more powerful than Hermes…In general, we consider that the real Heracles was a wise man who achieved everything by eloquence and applied persuasion as his principal force. His arrows represent words, I suppose, keen, sure, and swift, which make their wounds in souls. In fact, you yourselves admit that words are winged.”

To most Celtic polytheists, He is a God of eloquence and persuasion. This fits with the Celtic belief that a chieftain or deity had to be both a warrior and a poet. A warrior could prevent a battle with his words or rally the troops with an inspirational speech. Words have magical power, and charms were spoken or sung to add the necessary energies of healing, protection, and cursing. Poets were also prophets who could predict the future and devise ways to work with it. Ogmios shows us the reverence the Celtic tribes had for the power of speech.

If you are at a loss for words, I include my Invocation to Ogmios from Steel Bars, Sacred Waters:

Invocation to Ogmios by Heather Awen
Hail, Ogmios!
God who gifts humans with language, powerful as any weapon,
God in the leopard’s skin, dark of complexion,
Your followers of old smiled upon hearing your words.
Speaker to oracles, God giving joyful news,
A hero who faces all challenges, a bard able to amuse,
Even followers today smile as your great power continues.

Ogma

Even though they look similar, the names Ogmios and Ogma are not great linguistic matches. However, They do seem to have a connection. Ogma is one of the greatest warriors of The Tuatha De Danann (pronounced TOO-ah-hah djay DAH-nahn). Known also as “Strong-Man,” “Sun-Faced” and “Sun-Poet,” he is eloquent like all good leaders of warriors. In Lebor Gabála Érenn he is described as so eager for battle that other warriors had to hold him back until it was time to fight. Ogma is the brother of the Dagda and Nuada.

Ogma invented the Ogham alphabet and many people studying the Ogham pray to him for guidance. In the mythological stories, the Ogham was a magic used by Druids (sorcerers) and a way for warriors to communicate about dangers. The knife that cut the wood is like a sword in battle.

Cú Chulainn is the greatest hero warrior in Gaelic mythology, just as Hercules is the greatest in Graeco-Roman myths. According to Bernhardt-House the connection between Ogmios and Hercules is found with Ogma and Cú Chulainn:

“The way this first ogam-cutting is described in the Book of Leinster’s version of the Táin is noteworthy: ‘Cú Chulainn went into the wood and cut a prime oak sapling, whole and entire, with one stroke and, standing on one leg and using but one hand and one eye, he twisted it into a ring and put an ogam inscription on the peg of the ring and put the ring around the narrow part of the standing-stone at Ard Cuillenn.’”

(Yes, he’s in the prophecy and Magick position also used by Babd and Lugh, the Crane Position.)

Celtic Pagans differ in how they relate to Ogma; some link him with speaking well, while others focus on his great skill as a warrior. Ogma is both and more. (Celtic deities are rarely as simple as “God of (this part of life).” They are usually talented in many ways, just like any Celtic chieftain would have been expected to be.)

Ogma found Orna, the sword of the powerful Fomorian king Tethra. After Ogma cleaned it, Orna told Ogma all the acts it had ever done in battle, another connection between battle and speech. (Animists often believe powerful tools have their own spirits and are living like everything else. This why many are named, like the harp the Dagda owns.)

With the help of the Ogham, Ogma could cause stones and sticks to speak. Things that normally cannot speak receive the ability to talk. If you are working on the psychic skills to learn the history of an object or place, perhaps Ogma would be a good teacher.

Invocation to Ogma by Heather Awen

Strong warrior, leader in the field,
Father of the Ogham alphabet
Valued by soldiers and Druids.
Ogma, powerful force for good,
Clever with signs and strategies,
Always ready to halt the source of injustice,
I call to you, and hope that you hear my words of praise.

Want to read about 159 other Celtic deities and heroes? Steel Bars, Sacred Water is available from us at a lower price than Amazon! Plus we receive more profits for buying copies for incarcerated Pagans!

 

Next Post: A historic overview of the Ogham!

Bibliography

Bernhardt-House, Phillip A., Warriors, Words, and Wood: Oral and Literary Wisdom in the Exploits of Irish Mythological Warriors, Studia Celtica Fennica VI (2009)

Cunliffe, Barry, The Ancient Celts. Oxford University Press (1997)

Daimler, Morgan, Pagan Portals: Irish Paganism: Reconstructing Irish Polytheism. Moon Books (2015)

Ellison, Robert Lee (Skip), Ogham: The Secret Language of the Druids. ADF Publishing (2007)

Gregory, Lady Augusta, Gods and Fighting Men: The Story of the Tuatha De Danann and of the Fianna of Ireland. J Murray (1904)

Guide to Gaelic Polytheism, http://www.GaelicPolytheism.info (accessed 2017)

Haussler, Ralph, Interpretatatio Indigena: Re-Inventing Local Cults in a Global World, Mediterraneo Antico, xv, 1-2 (2012)

Jones, Mary (ed), Jones’ Celtic Encyclopedia, http://www.maryjones.us/jce/jce_index.html

Laurie, Erynn Rowan, Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom. A Megalithica Books Publication, An imprint of Immanion Press (2009)

MacCulloch, J. A., The Religion of the Ancient Celts. Public Domain (1911)

Mierzwick, Tony, Hellenismos: Practicing Greek Polytheism Today. Llewellyn (2018)

Nova Roma, http://www.novaroma.org/nr/Roman_religion

Rolleston, Thomas William, Myths & Legends of The Celtic Race. Public Domain (1911)

Sjoestedt, Marie-Louise, translated by Myles Dillon, Celtic Gods and Heroes. Dover (2000)

Willoughby, Harold R., A Study of Mystery Initiations in the Graeco-Roman World (1929)

Celtic Festival Calender: Abnoba & the Celtic Artemis/Diana

abnoba
Abnoba by Alexandra Rena

Celtic and Roman Deity Differences in the Roman Empire

This is part of my series where Festivals for Roman deities are linked with the Celtic deities associated with those Roman deities. For example, a Roman Festival for Minerva is a Brythonic Festival of Sulis, or the 2 week Festival of Aesculapius includes possibly the most popular, longest-worshipped Gaulish deity Telesphorus. Once the Celtic tribes and cities were conquered by Rome and made part of the Empire, the Celtic leaders and merchants would have learned the Roman year, which was filled with religious festivals. Even if Celtic people at that time ignored the festivals (highly unlikely for the cities of Gaul and Iberia, Celtic men in the Roman military and Celtic slaves) it gives modern Celtic polytheists a calendar for honoring many deities. We’re rarely lucky enough to know the date of a Celtic deity’s festival from an ancient Celtic culture – Erudinus may be our only one.

Many people believe that the Romans forced the names of their deities onto the Celtic deities, but scholars have shown that the Celtic people made the association between the deities on their own. This would explain why so many Celtic Gods are associated with Mars in one place and with Mercury in another. Even where Celtic people eventually forgot the Celtic titles of their deities, worship often continued under a Roman name. This is explored more in depth in the upcoming post on the “native” Vulcan and “native” Venus.

Celtic deities don’t have a lot of specialization, aside from smiths and healers. They provide everything a member of the tribe could need. There’s no ancient Gaulish, Gaelic, Celtiberian, Brythonic or other type of Celtic pantheon. Tribes were affected by place and shared history, which is reflected in the hundreds of Celtic deities whose names we know. There’s no God of only war, Goddess of only love, etc. Usually Celtic deities are in a couple: the tribal chieftain good at everything and the river/land Goddess of the bioregion. The Roman artisans mixed Celtic, Greek and Roman symbols together, providing us with an understanding of how the Celtic person who paid for the sculpture described the deity.

Usually the Goddess in the couple might have crows and ravens symbolizing scavengers who eat the dead on the battlefield or the funeral platform, or a horse associated with leading the dead to the Realm of the Ancestors. The God often holds a spear and shield, a hammer or club. He is sometimes accompanied by a hunting hound, although a few Goddesses are depicted with dogs. (The lap dog who sometimes sits on the lap of one of the Matres is possibly a way women warmed an abdomen with painful menstrual cramps.) Goddesses might be depicted with a cornucopia of fruits and grains of abundance and also have the crow of death in war; as the land, She’s Who provides and Who the people fight for keeping. This makes it difficult to say “Oh, She’s the Goddess of health (or the hearth or the harvest).”

At first neither the Romans nor the Celts probably knew very much (if anything) about the other culture’s deity. It would have taken a few generations before the cults became uniquely, regionally syncretic. Hymns and myths about the Roman deities would be taught by the poets and in theaters and Roman naturalist statues of their deities taught Roman and Greek symbolism. When depicted by a Roman sculptor, Celtic Gods often wore a cape and held a spear in one hand, shield in the other, much like a Celtic chieftain.

(When a large mitigating Gaulish warband attacked the Oracle of Delphi it was recorded that the men laughed at the statues of the Gods, unable to image deities in human form. As it was a brutal journey there and about to become much worst, and because we don’t know what Greek person present would have understood why the Gauls were laughing, and because the only the Greeks left a written record of this attack, this may be inaccurate. Archeology has recovered ancient Celtic statues of deities in northern Gaul and Scotland. The Celtic deity statue was made from a large pole and had a roughly cut faces and large genitalia. Their eyes were glass and some wore torcs. In northern Gaul the wood statues seem to have stood in the center of a square or rectangular open sacred space outside. The ground was packed by people walking or dancing around the pole.)

Celtic sacred groves by rivers were considered healing sites to the Romans, who built their healing spas by fresh water. Were deities with Roman healing temples like Nodens (the earliest form of the name of the Mabinogi Gods Nudd and Llud and the Old Irish God Nuada) originally healing deities or did They gain that function from the Romans? The huge healing sanctuary at Trier dedicated to Lenus Mars (a Belgae tribe’s primary God) was by a river probably because rivers and valleys (the same word in Gaulish) tended to be an important Goddess. Lenus Mars defended His people in that land, including from plagues, but the Romans added the dorms for sick pilgrims. Even though Lenus was associated with Mars, His battles were now focused on disease. This should remind us that how the Celts understood Roman deities like Mars was not the same as how the Romans understood their deities. (This is somewhat similar to a Dahomey native in Haiti worshipping python lwa Damballa with symbols of St. Patrick. That St. Patrick is nothing like what the Catholic church would recognise.)

“(T)he locals selected particular elements from in-coming cultures, endow these with religious meanings different from those they possessed in Graeco-Roman culture and then creatively merge these with indigenous traditions to create totally new forms….”
– Ralph Haussler, How to identify Celtic religion(s) in Roman Britain and Gaul

It took a few generations to build the Romano-Celtic cults and I imagine that when they did, many Celtic people made offerings to their own deities during the festival of the related Roman deity. Even if they didn’t, for people who are resurrecting the worship of Gaulish, Iberian Celtic and/or Brythonic deities and seeking a calendar for rituals, this provides a lot of structure to adapt as desired. The Celts, typical for polytheists, brought in worship of “foreign” deities, like the Roman Mercury and Hercules. A Celtic Pagan need not worry about honoring only deities of one culture, as the Celtic tribes seem to have had varied pantheons based on the bioregion and tribal history. Many Southern Gauls adopted Apollon and Hermes from the Greeks in the 5th century BCE, so the lunar calendar from Athens may also have appropriate days for worship.

A Gaelic Reconstructionist worshipping Brig and Aine would seem very strange to ancient Gaelic tribes, when Brig was the Goddess of Leinster and Aine was the Goddess for Munster. No matter how we try, we won’t be able to recreate the pantheons ancient Celts knew; so many deities are lost to us in spite of knowing over 200 names. Also, those in Belgae had strong relationships with the North Sea Germanic tribes (the People of Ingvi-Frey), while those in Gaul adopted Venus, Goddess of gardens. How this would have continued if Christianity never appeared is impossible to guess except that some deities of new trade partners would have been become part of a Celtic people’s lives. Inclusive polytheism would have continued, especially as people traveled, married and had new bioregions to survive. Different cults would have formed around labor guild unions, river valleys, heroes and heroines, and a diverse understandings of past cults melded into rituals for modern needs. (Kinda like today’s well researched reconstruction -based polytheism!)

The Nemoralia and “Native” Diana

On August 13 (originally the full moon) Romans celebrated the Nemoralia. “‘Twas the season when the vault of heaven bends its most scorching heat upon the earth … and now the day had come when the torch smoke rises from Trivia’s [Diana’s] grove … and the [torch] lights twinkle on her lake” (Statius Silvae 3.1.55-57 LCL). This ritual for Diana was also known as the Festival of Torches, held at at Lake Nemi. Diana was know by many titles including Mistress of the Beasts, Grand Midwife, Goddess of the Moon, Lady of the Wilds, Guardian of the Oak, Friend of the Nymph, and the Protector of Maidens, many of which come from Her merging with attributes of the Greek Artemis.

On Diana‘s Festival, slaves and women were allowed to attend the ritual instead of working. All who participated washed their and decorated it with flowers. Diana’s sacred hunting hounds were also given garlands of flowers. All hunting was forbidden. The people walked in a religious procession to Her grove and lake (which most Celtic peoples would have understood from their own rituals). Diana received offerings of clay stags, ripe fruits and statuettes of mother and child. Her worshippers wrote their prayers on tablets or ribbons which were tied to trees. Later the popular festival was held on August 15, which possibly is why August 15 became the Christian Feast of the Assumption, the main holiday honoring Mary.

In his recent paper A Landscape of Resistance?, Ralph Haussler discusses the possibility of a Celtic interpretation of Diana in northern Italy: 

“The goddess Diana is often associated with a villa context, as goddess of hunting. But we should not forget that Artemis/Diana has more profound meanings which we might need to consider when trying to understand her distribution pattern in the Transpadana and Liguria: besides a cluster in Novarese and Lombardy, we also find her between Turin and Ben. Can she have been an interpretatio of an indigenous deity? In this respect, there is a dedication from Casalino (Novara) where Diana is associated with the Matronae. But we also find a sanctuary for Diana at Savigliano (Cuneo). It was organised by priestesses of the local pagus, magistrae pagi, suggesting that this was an extra-urban sanctuary, a civic cult of the local ciuitas.  Unlike many of our previous example, this sanctuary is not in a more marginal, hilly location, but it is situated in the plain, at the centre of a heavily centuriated area. Does this mean that
we are dealing with a Greco-Roman style Diana? Perhaps not since Diana seems to be a local phenomenon: nearby at Fossano, for example, we find a dedication to the ‘august’ Diana, but with the interesting formula sub asci, – a Celtic formula that is well attested in Transalpine Gaul and might therefore support the goddess’s more ‘native’ perception. And just north at Chieri / Carreum-Potentia, we find Diana again in a votive dedication Fonti Dianae Victoriae (‘to Fons, Diana, Victoria’ or ‘to the sacred spring of Diana and Victoria’?)….”

Another “native” Celtic Diana/Artemis Goddess was worshipped in Galatia, both in Camma where Her Priestess resided and further west. In Camma Her ritual focused on the hunt. Money was paid for every animal killed in the hunt, which was used for the Goddess’s Feast. The money also paid for Her sacrifice in gratitude for Her generosity. The ritual was similar to the Nemoralia in that dogs wore crowns made of flowers. Again we learn of a Celtic Goddess whose name was forgotten but who kept Her own identity.

Abnoba: Goddess of Mountain, the Danube and the Black Forest

Abnoba is a wonderful example of a Celtic Goddess of place. She is the mountain where the Danube River begins with the the Breg river, the Abnobaei montes are in the Baar foothills of the Swabian Alb near Furtwangen im Schwarzwald. Her name appears to have a connection with water, which would very likely be the Danube. The Danube was an incredibly important Celtic source of transportation, trade, food and life itself. Many deities are thought to be named for the Danube, including the Gaelic Danu. Abnoba was primarily worshipped in the Black Forest region.

As the source of the Danube, Abnoba had to be very important. In some ways She could have been viewed as the source of life. She may have served as the typical Celtic Sovereignty Goddess, with Her domain once associated with a tribe we don’t know. To the people in the area Abnoba must have had some maternal, royal and protective qualities much like Goddesses of other rivers. Her association (to the Romans) with Diana was probably because of Abnoba‘s importance in the Black Forest and Diana‘s home in the woodlands.

While many Romans honored Diana while far from home on August 13th, the Gauls in the Imperial military probably joined in the rite, while focusing on Abnoba. The Roman soldiers probably focused on Diana‘s powers over the hunt or the health of pregnant wives in Rome. The Celts don’t seem to have any deities related to the moon, so that aspect of Diana was probably not important to them. The roles of Guardian of the Oak, Mistress of the Beasts and Lady of the Wilds seem to fit Abnoba the best, while She would have been still much more. The forest, the river and the mountains – all of these and their benefits to humans are the gifts that are Abnoba.

Why Worship Deities of Distant Bioregions

For those of us not living in the Black Forest, how can we honor Abnoba? Maybe more important to others is why would we? Celtic religion is very place-based. However, so is Greek religion and Pagans outside of Athens worship Athena. The Orishas from different parts of Yorubaland have become a neo-Yoruban pantheon where the river Orishas Oba, Oshun, Oya and Yemaya have changed to meet the needs of their worshipers. We worship the deities Who care for us and there is no reason why Abnoba would not care for you any less than Athena or Ogun care for other people an ocean away from Their original home.

There are many ways Abnoba cares for us. Abnoba is present in the pure spring water of mountaintops, something incredibly valuable if we look at how much money people pay for it. Of course, clean water is worth much more important than a dollar amount, but people sometimes forget how much they are interacting with the deities. When you buy mountain spring water, you’re paying for the goodness that is Abnoba. (It would be much better for the all life if no one used plastic and instead properly filtered their own water and carried it in a metal bottle, or better yet water sanitation was done with Living Machines and tap water was clean and safe.) I don’t walk 5 miles to get safe drinking water and carry it back another 5 miles; do you? But we would, like many people affected by Climate Chaos, if we had to because water is that valuable.

For hunters, Abnoba could be an important Goddess of the hunt. Anyone against mountaintop removal mining could pray to Abnoba as She probably is offended by the dangerous harm caused by greed and fossil fuel addiction. People living deep in a forested area fed by a powerful river and those who live in high elevations where large rivers begin may develop a natural relationship with Abnoba just because they live where She’s used to being called. (Bear Mountain in California comes to mind.)

Isis had a temple in Britain where Her sacred Nile is nowhere to be found. Obviously deities are carried by their worshipers wherever they go. We don’t know the different myths about Abnoba which definitely would have changed over the generations, but She must have qualities that transcend place. Her devotees may make a pilgrimage to Her place of origin, and I hope that people do learn about the bioregional and cultural homes of the deities they worship. It’s the greatest way to understand the deity who has no mythology (along with linguistics and archeology).

But you may have a connection to Abnoba simply because She chose you.

Ritual Suggestions

Your Festival of Abnoba should feature clean drinking water. I would wash my hair in a way that won’t posion the water. A very small amount of baking soda massaged in the roots for the oil, rinsed clean, and an apple cider vinegar after rinse for the acidic shrine really works. A castile soap like Dr Bronners and a lemon juice rinse for blonde squeaky clean hair or a rosemary infusion for a healthy scalp and lush darker hair also works wonders. Shampoo is basically dish detergent. Real soap does not make bubbles of lather. If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put in the water supply or on your skin, especially when honoring nature deities. It’s hypocritical. Deities are impressed by what we do. To moisturize hair, leave in light-weight jojoba oil on the ends or use coconut oil to turn frizzy into ringlets.

Dogs should definitely be honored, as the Celts valued their hunting hounds greatly. If you have any canine companions whom you want to include, get them a treat. (If you have many dogs or Pagan friends with dogs, you might schedule a quick rite at a dog park.)

As for flowers: the flower industry uses a few dozen times more pesticides than the agricultural sector! I wouldn’t let that near my altars (or my planet if I had that power). Try the farmers market, your or a friend’s flower garden or a wild field, careful to not take more than 10% of any species or kill any endangered species.

For those who are able, a hike or ski lift to the top of a mountain might be the best place to make an offering to Abnoba. (In Vermont ski lifts often run in summer.) Woodlands are also good places. (Remember to stay covered and check for ticks! Lyme disease and other tickbourne diseases are horrible! I speak from horrible experience!)

If inside, build an Abnoba altar with something to represent a mountain (photograph, pile of peddles, etc) and a bowl or cup of fresh, purified water. (Rain water might be fine, but check about the water quality of any local streams or rivers – if it’s bad, a very Celtic service offering would be to volunteer in river clean up work).

Have a bowl for your libations that you can pour outside later and a plate, tray, bowl or basket with your offerings. Ritually broken metal or glass bead jewelry (good sacrifices for Celtic Goddesses in general) and organic fruit are fine offerings. Carved wooden or ceramic stags add another Celtic layer to the offering, as Celtic people probably would not know the myth about Actaeon and may have thought about the deer Her forest gave the hungry. (Please don’t use the plastic-y “oven bake” modeling “clay” as it’s really toxic.) As deities change, maybe Abnoba likes Black Forest cake for all I know!

The traditional “circle the holy” procession three times sunwise is a good start for most Celtic rites. You may want to use traditional Celtic percussion of rattles and little bells (probably sewn onto clothing). Try chanting Abnoba to become more receptive to Her.

Next praise Her, say what you know about Her, and thank Her for the gifts She’s always provided human beings. Water is fundamental for life. We know that intellectually but don’t always act like it. We are made of water. Transportation along rivers meant information, trade goods, contact with new people. Trees hold the top soil of fertile soil, are the “lungs of the Earth” (with bluegreen algae), prevent heat waves, talk to other trees through their roots in the “wood wide web”, feed their children saplings through their roots and are home to an incredible amount of life, even when dead.

Tell Abnoba the offerings are for Her. Write your wishes in pencil on a strip of organic linen (or cotton) and thank Her again, knowing that She’ll be working on them if they fit Her needs, too, and will be best for you. Put the cloth with your offerings.

Circle your altar again clockwise, and gather the offerings, libations and cloth for a trip outside. You may want to go to a nearby river for this. Otherwise bury the jewellery and pour the libation into the soil. Then loosely tie your wishes to an oak or the tree that feels right to you.

Of course a financial offering to a dog rescue organization or shelter is highly appropriate! Adopting a dog if your housing, schedule and finances will allow you to be a good caretaker could be another modern offering. Planting native trees that you will protect or donating to an organization working successfully to end deforestation is a logical sacrifice for Abnoba and Diana, too.

 

Selected Bibliography

Bernstein, Francis, Classical Living: Reconnecting with the Rituals of Ancient Rome. Harper Collins e-books (2007)

Butler-Ehle, Hester, Fieldstones New Shoots from Stony Soil, 2nd Edition by Hester Butler-Ehle

Cunliffe, Barry, Britain Begins. Oxford University Press (2013)

Cunliffe, Barry, The Ancient Celts. Oxford University Press (1997)

Ellis, A. B., The Yoruba-Speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast of West Africa. 1894.

Filan, Kenaz, The Haitian Vodou Handbook: Protocols for Riding with the Lwa. Destiny Books (2

Haussler, Ralph, A Landscape of Resistance? Cults and Sacred Landscapes in Western Cisalpine Gaul, STUDI E RICERCHE SULLA GALLIA CISALPINA
26, Roma tra il Po e le Alpi: dalla romanizzazione alla romanità ATTI DEL CONVEGNO, Venezia 13-15 maggio 2014, Giovannella Cresci Marrone

Haussler, Ralph, How to identify Celtic religion(s) in Roman Britain and Gaul, Divinidades indigenas em analise, J. d’Encarnacao (ed), (2008)

Haussler, Ralph, Interpretatatio Indigena: Re-Inventing Local Cults in a Global World, Mediterraneo Antico, xv, 1-2 (2012)

Macculloch, J.A., The Religion of the Ancient Celts, Edinburgh: T. & T. CLARK (1911)

Mierzwick, Tony, Hellenismos: Practicing Greek Polytheism Today. Llewellyn (2018)

Nova Roma, http://www.novaroma.org/nr/Roman_religion

Rankin, David & d’Este, Sorita, The Isles of Many Gods: An A-Z of the Pagan Gods & Goddesses worshipped in Ancient Britain during the first Millennium CE through the Middle Ages. Avalonia (2007)

Ross, Anne. Pagan Celtic Britain. Academy Chicago Publishers, Chicago (1967)

Sjoestedt, Marie-Louise, translated by Myles Dillon, Celtic Gods and Heroes. Dover (2000)

Sweet, James H., Domingos Álvares: African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World. The University of North Carolina Press (2011)

Sweet, James H., Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441–1770. The University of North Carolina Press (2003)

 

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Celtic Festival Calender: Belenos, Endovelicus, Neto, Grannus, Maponos & Apollo

800px-Lauingen_Apollo-Grannus-Tempel
Partially Reconstructed Apollo-Grannus-Temple in Lauingen, by Dr Eugen Lehle

​This is part of an ongoing series where Celtic deities are matched with Festivals in the Roman calendar. I don’t know if these Celtic deities were worshipped on these days back then, but it helps modern polytheists organize a ritual calendar. The Celts were not passive in how their religion changed after being conquered by the Romans, and the Empire didn’t force much on the Celts after killing the politically powerful Druids. Where a Celtic deity is said to be like a Roman one, or their name becomes a new epitaph, or Celtic names are followed by Roman ones, we usually don’t know who made that choice or why. Over a few generations, how anyone understood the relationship between the deities probably was different from shrine to shrine, and maybe even from devotee to devotee. Polytheism is more concerned with right religious action than right beliefs, so different cultures could worship together and have very different ideas about why.

Apollo is a Greek God: the bisexual healer, the beautiful eternal youth, the radiant sun, the twin of Artemis. The Romans merged Artemis with their important Goddess Diana, but the cult of Apollo stayed in His name. Centuries before this, southern Gauls adopted two Greek Gods, Apollo and Hermes. During the Celtic migrations traveling East, we have a well known story of a group of Gaulish warriors fighting their way to Delphi, at that time under Apollo’s protection, and stealing all they could. The chaotic weather of the area and other problems caused the Gauls to panic, drop the shrine goods, and die in a messy battle. Perhaps the power of Apollo was told to other Gauls who heard the news. When the Romans brought Apollo to other Celtic tribes, often with southern Gaulish soldiers, the cult of Apollo grew even greater. Here, I explore Celtic deities who were identified with Apollo for Ludi Apollinares (Sacred Games of Apollo), a 7 day festival with the main sacrifice on July 13th.

The Roman games of Apollo began during the wars with Hannibal in the late third century BCE. By 44 BCE the Festival lasted for seven days: two for horse races and five for theatre productions. In every home, decorated with garlands of flowers, the most important woman led everyone in prayers. The front door was left open and tables graced each entrance during the time of feasting. Was this so Apollo would enter? Or to share with neighbors? We don’t know, only that it was a popular festival. 

Belenos

The first deity associated with Apollo for this essay will be Belenos, if only so mistakes can be corrected. We only know of Belenos from the northeastern Italian city of  Aquileia, where His name was a Celtic epithet for Apollo: Apollo Belenos.

Unfortunately, a popular Gaulish deity with a similar name, Belinos (pronounced “beh-LEY-noss”) meaning “bright, dazzling” who was never identified with Apollo in any inscription or shrine, was confused by older scholars with Belenos. They actually began replacing Belinos with Belenos, assuming all translations (the originals of which they never saw) were wrong.

Now scholars have reviewed the original source material and found that inscriptions and shrines across Europe said “Belinos” not “Belenos.” These are different deities. Only one was associated with Apollo and only in one city. The information is so new that it’s not even mentioned at Wikipedia.

This is a great example of why it’s so important to read current research. There’s thousands of academically sound papers for free at Academia.edu – Just check that a peer-reviewed publication chose their work, that they are a respected name in the field, or the writing has strong sources and doesn’t go into neo-Pagan fantasy. I’ve seen Celtic and Germanic polytheism websites citing books so outdated that their information about the deities is way off. With Academia.edu this is a Golden Age for people interested in Celtic studies.

So much new research over the last decade has completely changed everything we thought we knew. The Bronze Age Celto-Germanic words invented before there was a proto-Celtic or proto-Germanic language announced in 2010 as possibly originating in the current Czech Republic now have physical evidence (rock art and stele show the same sun boats and warrior poses for example) of being created in a connected trade culture between Iberia and Scandinavia – amber traded for copper. The basics of both religions is found in these words. Nerthus, Macha, Badb and other deities ‘ names originate here. Groves with horses, magic performed with string (origin of seidR), prophetic poets, angelica, one-eye, spear and other Woden and Lug related terms plus much more is revealed. (Steel Bars, Sacred Waters has more in depth information.)

Information about Celtic deities and tribes in Iberia is published at an astonishing rate. Ways statues of deities were used is among the completely new knowledge. In the Celtic Iron Age Iberia had more Celtic settlements than anywhere else. The Celtic language may have started in Iberia, where so many versions were spoken. The Phoenician traders had a port in Spain starting in the 9th century BCE. Lug (Lugh, Llew) is honored in a Celtic language in Phoenician script in 6th century BCE east of the Straits of Gibraltar. An entire Bronze Age Atlantic seaboard proto-Celtic culture spanned (due to trade) from Iberia, the French coast, the Low Countries coasts, Ireland, Britain including the Scottish Highlands. All built the same style tombs, used versions of the same proto-Celtic language and similar art designs and symbolism. Hallstatt as the origin of Celtic cultures is falling fast out of favor. 

This will shake up some Pagans, who have created a mythology of the sun God Belenos whom a scholar once assumed Beltain celebrates. But those Pagans could have a genuine personal connection to Apollo or an Aquileia version of Celtic polytheism. Both are traditional to Celts at different places and times. 

Belinos was a widely popular God in Gaul, Austria, northern Italy, the Alps, and Slovakia. He was even worshiped in Aquileia – nowhere near Apollo Belenos, more proof they are two different Gods. Perhaps He was the most worshipped Celtic God, sometimes paired with a Goddess who may be Belisama. Worship of Him has not been found in Britian, but “the King of the Britons” was Cynobellini, a name that contains beli and appears on coins. Belinos‘ name is also found in some place and personal names, like the  second half of Llewellyn (probably “Lugus-Belinos”). Belinos has possible sun connections, but none to Apollo, so this would not be His festival. However, it definitely could be the Festival of Belenos

Endovelicus

Endovelicus (pronounced  “en-doh-VELL-ih-cuss” – try it; it actually floats off the tongue) is a solar God of healing. I don’t know if He was ever directly connected to Apollo, but the Romans took such a strong interest in Him, I am going to guess that some did. 

Endovelicus was first worshiped by Celts in Portugal and southern Spain, probably as the chieftain God of their pantheon. Endovelicus was the guardian of any town with a temple for Him. The main magical animal of the Celts, swine, were His main sacrifice.

(The importance of boars and pigs is now believed to be from a cult the proto-Celts learned from the native Neolithic culture along the southern coast of the North Sea. These non-Indo-Europeans later moved east into the southern Baltic shore, where the Pagan Estonians embraced the cult of the Great Sow Mother, which was recorded by the Romans. Unfortunately until recently it was believed that the Sow Mother was Germanic and possibly connected Nerthus with FreyR and Freya. Estonian is part of the Finnish language group, not Germanic or Baltic, but one connected to the Bronze Age Celto-Germanic words.)

The Roman Empire was quite taken with Endovelicus. Temples dedicated to Him were very popular. At His sanctuaries a ritual was held and then people in search of healing slept. His spirit or in Roman terms His numen was considered to be present in His sanctuaries, and Endovelicus would give the sleeping pilgrims helpful dreams. Sometimes people came to receive prophetic visions at a temple that filled with hot steam from a hot spring. (Some Iberian Celts had saunas, so they understood the healing and probably the spiritual purification power of sweat and heat.) In the 5th century CE, Christianity worked hard to destroy His large following of devotees. 

One way that scholars know Endovelicus is a solar God is because of how He was depicted. Artists gave Him several faces, including an “infernal” one, because the solar God travels underground at night. In the morning He returns to us with renewed healing powers. If you’ve studied Kemetic mythology some, you’ll notice a similarity.

He was an incredibly popular deity whose worship has returned. This way, there’s a date for making offerings and prayers. 

Grannus

Grannus possibly “the Warming One” is the first Gaulish God most people would identify with Apollo. Pronounced “GRAN-nuss”, He is a God of healing thermal or mineral springs. Grannus had many sanctuaries. The most famous, Aquae Granni, was in what today is Aachen, Germany. Its hot springs were in a marshy valley. Even during the Hallstatt culture, it became a healing center. His name may be connected to the sun’s heat or possibly a man’s beard. It seems that beards were common on mature Celtic deities. (The clean shaven Roman God Mercury often is depicted with a beard and Celtic epitaph.) At one spa he was called “The one with a piercing  or far-reaching look.” 

Already ancient, Grannus had a 10-day celebration in the 1st-century CE. A  Latin inscription on a fountain in Limoges mentions it. (If we knew when it was or how it was done, there’d be a post about that!) But this shows how long His popularity lasted. 

The Goddess Sirona is commonly His partner, who has Her own “Heather’s invented” Festival date, based on that of Salus. Grannus is also invoked with many different cultures’ deities. The list includes Diana, the Nymphs, Hygieia, the Mother of the Gods, Sol, Serapis, Isis, Core, and Mars Sagatus. Frankly, I’m surprised that modern Pagan artists don’t depict Him very often. He was a major deity for so long and flexible enough to work with a multitude of deities. Instead, Sirona gets all the art (although it’s basically the Greek Goddess Hygieia). I understand that drawing women with snakes is sexier, more taboo. But with Grannus, we have great imagery: beard, piercing look, hot springs, sun. I’d love to see people working with that.

According to “The Religion of the Celts” by J.A. MacCulloch, “The god is still remembered in a  chant sung round bonfires in Auvergne. A sheaf of corn is set on fire, and called “Granno mio,”  while the people sing, “Granno, my friend; Granno, my father; Granno, my mother.” 

Maponos

Maponos, “the Divine Youth”, is a Gaulish God who became important in the Roman military zone of Northern Britain. At the Clochmabon Stone, offerings were even made by Roman military chiefs. There Maponos was linked to hunting, depicted with a hunter Goddess or a dog companion. He was often associated  with Apollo, including one inscription about Apollo the Harper. In Gaul he had a healing spring sanctuary.  

He and Mabon of the Mabinogi are often thought to be the same God. Maponos once was as a way of saying “Apollo, young son of Jupiter” while Mabon is once called “the son of lightning.” (Jupiter throws lightning bolts.) Maponos may also connected to the Gaelic Aengus. He generally seems to be a young, typical Celtic God good at everything: battle, healing, hunting and the arts.

Neto

Another Celtic God from Iberia, Neto was said to be a combination of the Roman Gods Mars and Apollo. There’s more information about Neto in the post about Celtic deities to be celebrated on March 1st. He can be honored on both days – the Celtic Iberian deities have been left out of Celtic Paganism books for far too long. One might think that only the Gaels had anything known about Celtic religion, when really we have so much more – a continent more – to embrace. 

For all of you who want to learn about a lot of Gaelic deities (understanding how fractured the Mythological Cycle is) and study the Celtic deities, religions, culture and history from the medieval Mabinogi to ancient Ukraine, Steel Bars, Sacred Waters was written to do just that. Knowing prisoners could never afford any other books on Celtic Paganism, we crammed in everything possible, making it truly “all in one” (and rather big and heavy). You can buy it here for less than Amazon, and all profits will go towards buying copies for incarcerated Pagans.

Heather Awen Grannus
Grannus prayer bead shrine, by Heather Awen

 

Selected Bibliography

Alfayé, Silvia, Contexts of Cult in Hispania Celtica, Cult in Context: Reconsidering Ritual in Archaeology, Barrowclough, D.A., & Malone, C. (eds), Oxbow, Oxford (2007) 

Arenas, Jesús Alberto, Celtic divine names in the Iberian Peninsula: towards a territorial analysis, Celtic Religion Across Time and Space, Junta de Comunidades de Castilla-La Mancha (2010)  

Bernstein, Francis, Classical Living: Reconnecting with the Rituals of Ancient Rome. Harper Collins e-books (2000)

Cunliffe, Barry, Britain Begins. Oxford University Press (2013) 

Cunliffe, Barry, On the Ocean: The Mediterranean and the Atlantic from Prehistory to AD 1500. Oxford University Press (2017)

Cultraro, Massimo, EVIDENCE OF AMBER IN BRONZE AGE SICILY: LOCAL SOURCES AND THE BALKAN-MYCENAEAN CONNECTION, BETWEEN THE AEGEAN AND BALTIC SEAS PREHISTORY ACROSS BORDERS: Proceedings of the International Conference Bronze and Early Iron Age Interconnections and Contemporary Developments between the Aegean and the Regions of the Balkan Peninsula, Central and Northern Europe, University of Zagreb, 11-14 April 2005, Edited by Ioanna GALANAKI, Helena TOMAS, Yannis GALANAKIS and Robert LAFFINEUR (2007)

Davies, Sioned, editor and translator, The Mabinogion. Oxford World’s Classics (2007) 

de Milio Carrín, Cristobo, The Widower And The Goddess  Or The Closed Door: On the connection between northern and southern Celts (March 2011) 

Ford, Patrick K., editor and translator, The Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh Tales. University  of California Press (1983) 

Haussler, Ralph, Interpretatatio Indigena: Re-Inventing Local Cults in a Global World, Mediterraneo  Antico, xv, 1-2 (2012) 

Hyllested, Adam, The Precursors of Celtic and Germanic, Proceedings of the 21st Annual UCLA Indo-European Conference (2010)

Hyllested, Adam, Again on Pigs in Ancient Europe: the Fennic connection, Etymology and the European Lexicon, Proceedings of the 14th Fachtagung der Indogermanischen Gesellschaft, Copenhagen, Hansen, Whitehead, Olander and Olsen (eds), (2016) 

Koch, John, (ed), Celtic Heroic Age: Literary Sources for Ancient Celtic Europe and Early Ireland  and Wales. Celtic Studies (2000)

Koch, John T., Rock art and Celto-Germanic vocabulary Shared iconography and words as reflections of Bronze Age contact, Adoranten (2018)

MacCulloch, J. A., The Religion of the Ancient Celts. Public Domain (1911) 

McKenna, Stephen, Paganism and Pagan Survivals in Spain up to the Fall of the Visigothic Kingdom, The Library of Iberian Resources Online, http://libro.uca.edu/mckenna/pagan1.html 

Nova Roma, http://www.novaroma.org/nr/Roman_religion

Pedreño, Juan Carlos Olivares, Celtic Gods of the Iberian Peninsula, Guimarães, Portugal: E-Keltoi: Journal of Interdisciplinary Celtic Studies (2005) 

Prosper, Blanca Maria, Celtic and non-Celtic Divinities from Hispania, The Journal of Indo-European  Studies, Vol. 43, #1&2 (2015) 

Prosper, Blanca Maria, The irreducible Celts used to swear by Belenos. Or did They?, DOI (2017) 

Sjoestedt, Marie-Louise, translated by Myles Dillon, Celtic Gods and Heroes. Dover (2000) 

Viducus Brigantici filius, Deo Mercurio, http://www.deomercurio.be/en/ 

Celtic Festival Calender: Mercuralia & Lugus

356px-Tricephale_Carnavalet
Lugus

As Celtic people conquered by the Romans adapted their religion to that of the Empire’s, I have begun  using the Roman calender as a guide for when to honor Celtic deities. There’s no real way to make direct correlation between the two pantheons; Celtic Gods tend to be tribal hero kings (and possibly first ancestors) who are great at everything, and Celtic Goddesses often hold power over the fertility and death of the tribe’s land, water, livestock and human members, especially the king. However, to unify the Empire, other peoples’ deities were called by Roman names much like the Greeks once did. It’s now thought that the Celts had more power in deciding what Roman deity to choose than formerly believed. The Celts transformed aspects of Roman religion to fit their own cosmology and over the course of a few generations new versions of Celtic religion appeared.

Whether or not any Celtic people worshiped their tribal deities on dates of Roman Festivals then, Celtic polytheism is still adapting. Most Celts would have known the deities of their tribe and (if in one) their larger federation. These were personal, connected to place and ancestry, and a large part of one’s identity. Today we don’t know a lot about the majority of Celtic deities (although we have over 400 names), but most modern Celtic polytheists have their own pantheons of a larger geographical region and period of time. Even a Gaelic polytheist worshiping the Tuatha De Danann is doing something quite modern, as tribes worshiped the deities of their territory of Ireland. It was one way tribes in power stayed in power, until big changes in the ruling tribes led to adopting Saints to justify their new power.

The Roman calendar is an easy way to plan rituals for those Gaulish, Iberian and Brythonic deities who were matched with a Roman deity. I began this with the most popular Celtic God most people have never heard of, Telesphorus; then Lenus, Neto, Rudianos, Cocidius, and Nemetona March 1st; and last month Ataegina and Erecura. The only Celtic deity known to have His own Celtic Festival is Erudinus of northern Spain, but I have found matches for Ogma and Ogmios, the smith deities and the “native” VenusSirona, Sulis, Andraste, Brigantia, GrannusAbnoba and the Celtic understanding of Diana.

On May 15, or the full moon of May, Roman merchants honored the God Mercury with the Mercuralia festival. An interesting thing about Mercury is that the Gauls worshiped Him even more ardently than the Romans. He was easily one of the most popular, if not the most popular, deities in Gaul. He was sometimes associated with a Celtic God, but in general the Gauls embraced Him as Himself.

There are records of Gaulish merchants hiring Roman artisans to make large statues of Mercury. It may be that these merchants brought the cult to their own communities. How Mercury was understood and worshiped at this time would have probably been a very Gaulish way. Some knowledge of the God didn’t mean that the merchant had a great wealth of information about Roman religious practices or mythology. Mercury was most likely growing into a Gallic deity while around them the world of the Gauls grew more Roman. Gaul was thriving with import-export business, and tribes who controlled major rivers were in a powerful position. Trade with Britain was not new, as goods crossed the Channel to and from southeast England to the Rhine River. The Romans built cities like London and their famous roads which made markets and transportation to other parts of Britain (including troops stationed at Hadrian’s Wall) much easier. One reason why Julius Caesar was so eager to conquer Gaul was to get their precious metal mines. Celtic fabric quickly became popular in Rome.

Mercury as the God of not only commerce but also transportation, was the backbone of the strength of Gaul. Yet, to the Romans, He was generally viewed as primarily the messenger of the deities.

Most scholars associate Mercury with Lug/ Lugus, who was widely worshiped by many Celtic peoples: the Celtiberians, the Luggones of Spain, the Gauls, the Gaels, and the Britons. The oldest mention of Lug is from a 6th century BCE engraving written in a Celtic language using Phoenician letters discovered in Southwest Portugal. His worship stayed very strong in Iberia.

Lug and Odin seem to have an ancient connection, going back perhaps 4,000 years to a group of Indo-European people possibly in or near the Czech Republic who would later become the Germans and the Celts. Currently, archeological evidence of Bronze Age Scandinavia and Celtic Iberia and the Celto-Germanic language is being studied by scholars such as John T Koch to prove the ancient shared roots. To learn more read here.

Linguistically the two Gods have quite a lot in common at this point from the spear to having or closing one eye. Also Lug’s mythology from Ireland and Wales (as Lugh and Lleu) has strong connections with myths about Odin, such as taking eagle form. (Steel Bars, Sacred Waters has more in depth information.)

Lleu (1)
Lleu as a dying eagle.

Starting with Lugus (pronounced “LOO-guss”), His companion Rosmerta and another Celtic deity associated with Mercury named Cissonius (pronounced: kiss-SOH-nee-us) the carriage driver are described. As we don’t have much information about the Mercuralia, use your imagination while working with knowledge of Celtic ritual.

From Steel Bars, Sacred Waters:

Lugus was worshiped by the Gauls but rarely by that name. When first describing the deities of the Gauls, Julius Caesar wrote in De Bello Gallico that the Roman God Mercury was their most important God. (When the Romans wrote about other peoples’ deities they used the names of the Roman ones that best matched the local deities. It helped hold a multicultural society together.) Important Lugus became so strongly associated with the Roman God Mercury that Mercury actually did become the most popular deity for the Roman Gaulish people! Mercury rules over trade, travel, communication and commerce, plus he invented the arts. The Southern Gauls actually had accepted Hermes, the earlier Greek version of Mercury, into their culture centuries before Caesar visited, so in a way Mercury was not really a new God to those Gauls.

“Some Gaulish Mercury statues showed him with three faces (which happens with other Gaulish Gods, signifying great strength) and three phalluses. Sometimes he is portrayed bearded and older than the Roman Mercury. Armed with a spear, he was often with the Celtic Goddess Rosmerta. His symbols are a herald’s staff and a money-bag; his animal familiars are goats, sheep and roosters, all of which became new popular animal sacrifices. He sometimes appears with the horned serpent, normally associated with Cernunnos.

“His name is found in Western European city names: Lugdunum (“fort of Lugus”), which was the capital of the Roman province of Gallia Lugdunensis (today Lyon, France); Carlisle, England, which was once Luguvalium; Loudoun in Scotland; Leiden in the Netherlands; Dinlleu in Wales; Lothian in Scotland; and Lugones in Spain. That was once in the territory of the Luggones, one of the 21 tribes of Asturians. There are many personal names linked to Lugus. One is Llewellyn. His own name, however, is rarely written down, even with Mercury. Some scholars believe that the many places with “his name” were really just “brilliant.” His name also may be connected to “oath,” such as putting an oath of destiny on someone. (“I swear you will….”)

“Lugus was also popular with the Celtiberians, especially in the mountains. Three inscriptions of a plural version of his name, the Lugoves, were found in Spain. One inscription, “L. L. Urcico dedicated this, sacred to the Lugoves, to the guild of shoemakers,” interests many scholars because the Brythonic God Lleu in the Mabinogi was a shoemaker. Lleu and the Gaelic Lugh, who has all the skills, are believed to be connected with Lugus.

“The Gaulish Mercury had mountain tops dedicated to him. They were called Mercurii Montes and included Montmartre, the Puy de Dôme, and the Mont de Sène.”

From Steel Bars, Sacred Waters:

Rosmerta (“the Great Provider”) is the Celtic companion of the Roman God Mercury. Celtic religion required the pairing of a God with a Goddess, but they did not have to be married. Rosmerta, being older, may have been considered Mercury’s mother. She is a mature Goddess who was worshiped in all the Celtic lands in the Roman Empire, being most popular in northern and eastern Gaul. She shared Mercury’s symbols – a winged staff with snakes, a purse, a winged diadem (instead of his winged hat), a rooster or ram – but she also held cornucopias and offering dishes. Her dress is modest and her face serious. She may have a connection to prophecy, but her worshipers knew her best as the provider of material well-being.”

(Viducus Brigantici filius has a beautiful monthly ritual honoring Rosmerta in Steel Bars, Sacred Waters.)

From Steel Bars, Sacred Waters:

Cissonius is a Gaulish God of trade and protecting travelers. Cissonius was the second most common name for the Gaulish Mercury. In Switzerland, southern Germany and France 17 inscriptions of his name have been found. Cissonius had two different forms. One was typical of Mercury: the young man with the winged helmet and staff. The other was as a man with a beard wearing a helmet who rode a ram while carrying a cup of wine.”

Senobessus Bolgon offers more on the role of Cissonius in Gaulish Reconstructionist Paganism, as well as another deity commonly associated with Mercury, Visucius.

I personally wonder about the influence of Hermes on the Gaulish understanding of Mercury. Early writing about the Celts said they were master magi, nearly obsessed with magic, and Hermes has a strong history as a God of magic. Sorcerer (and master of everything else worth doing) Lugh performs the one eye Crane Position. Lleu is the maternal nephew (or son) of the greatest sorcerer of Wales Gwydion, Himself the maternal nephew of Math, King of Gwynedd and another fabulous magician.

More on Lugh here.

 

Selected Bibliography

Davies, Sioned, editor and translator, The Mabinogion. Oxford World’s Classics (2007)

Ewing, John Thor, The Birth of Lugh – Óðinn and Loki among the Celts, Sinsear 8, University College Dublin (1995)

Gregory, Lady, Gods and Fighting Men: The Story of the Tuatha De Danann and of the Fianna of Ireland. Public Domain (1905)

Haussler, Ralph, How to identify Celtic religion(s) in Roman Britain and Gaul, Divinidades indigenas em analise, J. d’Encarnacao (ed), (2008)

Haussler, Ralph, Interpretatatio Indigena: Re-Inventing Local Cults in a Global World, Mediterraneo Antico, xv, 1-2 (2012)

Hyllested, Adam, The Precursors of Celtic and Germanic, Proceedings of the 21st Annual UCLA Indo-European Conference (2010)

Nova Roma, http://www.novaroma.org/nr/Roman_religion

Rhys, John, Celtic Folklore: Welsh and Manx. Oxford University Press (1901)

Sjoestedt, Marie-Louise, translated by Myles Dillon, Celtic Gods and Heroes. Dover (2000)

Viducus Brigantici filius, Deo Mercurio, http://www.deomercurio.be/en/