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)

Advertisements

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)

 

Gullveig Press does not endorse the products advertised by WordPress.

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. 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.

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. (Steel Bars, Sacred Waters has more in depth information.)

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.

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/

Celtic Festival Calender: the Complex Goddess Sulis Minvera

Roman_baths_2014_54
“To the Goddess Sulis, for the welfare and safety of Aufidius Maximus, Centurion of the Sixth Legion Victrix, Marcus Aufidius Lemnus, his freedman, willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow.” From the Temple Courtyard. Roman baths, Bath, UK. photograph copyright Mike Peel http://www.mikepeel.net

As part of a way to coordinate a Celtic polytheism festival calendar, I have been researching festivals in the Roman Empire. The Celtic people conquered by Rome merged their own local religious practices with what they learned of Roman religion. At the same time, the Roman Empire had a policy of interpreting the deities of other cultures by comparing them to their own. I suspect some Celtic people adapted the Roman Festival Calender to their own tribal ceremonies. There have been three Festivals already posted since the start of 2019, so be sure to check those out. More have been already researched, written, posted and scheduled, so please follow if you are interested.

Sulis Minvera is a great example of how a Roman deity and magico-religious practice were changed by local Britons to fit their cultural needs. But first let’s learn about the Greater Quinquatrus held between March 19 and 23.

The Greater Quinquatrus was a festival dedicated to the Goddess Minerva, who ruled over all the arts. Like with the Celtic people, arts meant more than painting, music and poetry. Arts included all the important skills needed for a people, like medicine, weaving and education. (Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners delves into the arts more deeply and you can buy it here for less than at Amazon. All profits go to sending free copies to incarcerated Pagans!)

“Let girls learn how to card the wool and work the distaffs. Minerva also teaches us how to weave on the upright loom warp with a shuttle. She tightens the loose threads with a comb. Worship her, you who want to remove stains from your clothes. Worship her, you who dye the wool in large bronze kettles. Cherish her, you who carve and sculpt in stone, or you who paint brightly colored pictures. Minerva is the Goddess of a thousand works. Surely, she is the Goddess of poetry as well.” (Ovid Fasti 3.811-34)

The first day of the Greater Quinquatrus was called an artificium dies, meaning “day of the arts.” Teachers, students and doctors made sacrifices to Minerva.

In the opinion of Julius Caesar, Minvera was the Goddess most popular with the Gauls. Celtic deities tend to be great at everything. The Gaelic Brig is a great example of a Celtic Goddess of the arts, celebrated on Imblog, and the Sovereignty Goddess of Leinster, its wartime protector, and honored for Her fertility around August 1st. Minvera has a powerful connection with the Greek Athena who rules over the city of Athens the way Brig protects Leincester. To learn how Brig became associated with Leincester and why Her followers made Her a Saint, read this post.

Sulis Herself is an enigma. In Britain the Romans built a temple over the thermal spring at Bath (now Somerset) dedicated to Sulis Minerva. Sulis may have been a Goddess native to the Britons or their name for the Goddess of the thermal spring may have been different. The name Sulis may also have associations with a Celtic word for the sun or the eye, but scholars can’t be sure. There’s a possibility that Sulis could have been created by Romans for Minvera at this sanctuary. The name Sulis Minvera may mean “the eye of Minvera” which would probably be a reference to Athena.

Other scholars believe Sulis comes from The Suleviae, the protective Goddesses “the good guides” brought by Gaulish soldiers. The native British Celtic sanctuaries rarely had inscriptions for the deities worshiped. Most of the names of deities honored in Britain actually come from the Gaulish, German, and Roman soldiers stationed in Britain. Whatever the case, the hot springs would have had a local deity name even if it was not Sulis.

Fresh water had always received offerings in the British Isles – large, grand ones for the good of the entire tribe. Things changed in the Roman era. Offerings were mass produced, cheaper and sacrificed by individuals.

Another change is the constrution of the temple. In Bath the Sulis Minerva sanctuary does not have the usual Celtic procession circle around it for ritual walking or perhaps dancing. Instead Bath was a very traditional Roman-style bathing sanctuary.

Although it was a healing temple, around a hundred and thirty curse tablets were also found in the sacred spring. Curse tablets were something brought from Rome. Romans usually had professional scribes write their curse on lead*, sometimes with magical words, and then fold the curse and hold it closed with a nail. The curse tablets often were put in cemetaries, which did not happen in Britain. The tablets of Romans were about a broad range of topics such as love or lawsuits.

What the Britons did differently is that they wrote their own curses and signed their names. They seem to have felt it was best to directly talk with Sulis themselves. Another change is that almost every tablet describes an item that was stolen, nothing about love or law. Sulis is usually asked to make the thief suffer physically until he or she returns the object missing to its owner or offers it to Sulis Minvera Herself. It seems that the point is not necessarily to get the stolen item back, but for the justice of the thief to physically hurt until they do  the right thing.

The actual Roman members of the community did not make these curses, indicating that the Britons probably did not go to the local law for theft. Evidently to the Britons theft was a divine issue. Theft breaks the Celtic virtues of honesty and hospitality which hold tribal cultures together. People wrote the curses for thefts of all types of belongings, both inexpensive to expensive, showing that any theft was considered a violation and deserving of divine punishment. Many of the thefts were of clothes and shoes as people bathed. If bathing in the sacred hot springs was a traditional Celtic religious activity, these thefts would have broken more Celtic virtues, making the thief even more accountable to Sulis.

Britain may had its native political structure of independent tribes torn apart, but at Bath people continued to appeal to the Goddess of the thermal waters when old community values were broken. They adapted a new Roman way to their tribal beliefs.

From Steel Bars, Sacred Waters:

Invocation to Sulis by Heather Awen

“Sulis, praise be to you, Grand Goddess of the hot spring spa
Where many were healed
And many were helped.
Your strength is like the eye of the sky
Rolling across the heavens,
Watchful of any wrongdoing
In the body or in the community.
Many are the reasons I praise you,
May you hear them all.”

Sulis may have been considered an aspect of Minerva or Athena to the Romans, but She appears to be a Goddess of healing the individual and the community to the local Britons. I say the community because She maintained the right rules of tribal living. Tribal deities were treated like tribal chieftains, and a chieftain or King often heard the complaints of the people and made legal decisions. Whatever Her name before the Romans, Sulis is a Queen to the Britons. Although She may no longer be able to defend Her devotees from invasion and war, She still protects their health and maintains some old ways to care for the community.

For your own festival of Sulis Minerva, you could focus on the Roman attention to the arts. The Celts did expect their deities to have mastery of all the arts. Weaving was a skill greatly valued, and anyone especially interested in fiber arts might want to make an offering. Healers should honor Sulis Minvera on March 19, along with students and teachers, including students and teachers of Celtic polytheism.

Along with gratitude for the skills the deities have shared with mortals, you could focus on the obvious healing aspect of Sulis Minerva. A hot bath, steam room or sauna can be turned into a holy experience. You can also make an appeal to Her for safety and honesty in your community. This could be where you live, extended family or an online organization. If you have been the victim of theft, you can ask for Her to replace the stolen goods and that the thieves are healed from whatever it is that made them steal, whether addiction, poverty or compulsive behavior. Their healing will make your community better and improve your life.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to make your offerings, preferably biodegradable materials into a river.

(Much of the information in this post is from Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners.)

* Lead is incredibly toxic, even in trace amounts. It is proven to cause severe health issues for children and according to the New York Times is linked to gang violence in the years before unleaded gasoline. It actually does make people enraged and very ill. As there is so much lead in our water and land already from lead paint chips left in yards to factory pollution, NEVER use lead in ritual especially throwing it in water! You can write the alchemist’s symbol for lead or the planet Saturn’s symbol, the planet associated with lead on blank recycled paper for the same effect.

Selected Bibliography

Adams, J. N., ‘British Latin: The text, Interpretation and Language of the Bath Curse Tablets’, Britannia 23 (1992): p.1-26

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

Byrne, Francis J., Irish Kings and High-Kings. Four Courts Press (2001)

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

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

Cunliffe, Barry, ed. The Temple of Sulis Minerva at Bath, vol. 1 & 2. Oxford University Press (1988)

Gager, J., ed. Curse Tablets and Binding Spells in the Ancient World (Oxford: 1992)

Grömer, Karina, “Textile Materials and Techniques in Central Europe in the 2nd and 1st Millennia BC” (2014). Textile Society of America Symposium Proceedings.

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)

Huth, Christoph and Monika 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 Northwest and Central Europe, Robert Schumann & Sasja van der Vaart-Verschoof (ed.) Sidestone Press (2017)

Meyer, Kuno trans., Hail Brigit: An Old-Irish Poem on the Hill of Alenn. Dublin: Hodges, Figgs, and Co. (1912)

NÉMETH, GYÖRGY, Voodoo dolls in the classical world, (publication unknown)

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)

Smyth, Alfred P., Celtic Leinster. Mount Salus Press Ltd. (1982)

Wolf, Casey June, The Mythical Pairing of Brig and Bres – Its Origins and Meaning in Cath Maige Tuired, 34 SFU (Surrey) HUM 332 Celtic Mythology with Antone Minard (2015)

“Standard Manufactured Pantheons”: Prisoner’s Book Review Challenges Neo-Pagans

I received a really cool, interesting letter from a Pagan in prison who had received a free copy of Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners. He’d been Pagan for about 15 years, with a focus in Ceremonial Magick but like most people in prison, studies anything he can.

He’s integrated parts of the book into his practice and was especially interested in the great deal of historical information. He wanted to know why this information isn’t in other Pagan Polytheist books. In his words:

“I don’t understand how lots of the Neo-Pagans I know, know virtually nothing about these deities (in your book). They all seem only to know the standard manufactured pantheons. If spirituality is very important to them, shouldn’t they try to devour all the knowledge they can about the deities of their paths besides the ‘uses ‘ for deities?”

What he especially liked about Steel Bars, Sacred Waters is the history of the deities. Telesphorus actually was his example, possibly the most well known Celtic God no one knows, as I said in my Festival of Telesphorus post.

Here we have a God so loved in Gaul, He traveled to Turkey and was worshiped by the Celtic Galatians and adopted by the Greeks. He’s even included in the Hellenistic pantheon and given Greek deities for family. Centuries later the Romans bring this healer God back West to the Gauls. Obviously, this is a God Who gets things done. There’s statues of Him (one included in the book) with His pointy Gaulish cap. Anyone who studies Greek mythology should  understand His importance and consider how many ways people worshiped this important deity.

And why don’t Celtic Pagans know about this God? Why do all the books bring out the same ones, often contradicting each other? Don’t people care about history? There’s over 160 deities in Steel Bars, Sacred Waters, put into historical context. The book explains ways of worship that he found helpful, especially the different essays about sacrifice and offerings. There were enough suggestions for him to understand the attitude behind it and ways even someone with no income and barely any food could make them.

The polytheist scene has been fighting to make sure that people worship deities and don’t treat them like bottles granting magic wishes. The idea of worship and devotion has become more mainstream. And although all reconstructionists have been saying “Read the source material,”  for most people that was difficult unless Heathen because the Prose Edda, Poetic Edda and H R Ellis-Davidson’s very helpful book Gods and Myths of Northern Europe are often at libraries, available cheap or even free online. You can FIND Norse mythology.

There’s no book of the Gaelic Mythological Cycle. It’s a collection of messy pseudo -history, going back to Noah and the Bible. Same for the ogham alphabet. And the fact that I explained this and some of the variations in medieval manuscripts, the Celtic most popular but rarely understood “source material”, is something that readers appreciated.

Heathenry became really popular when easy to read books on the deities, rituals and cosmology were easy to buy. Meanwhile, Celtic Reconstructionism never produced a scholarly book for the masses who were interested. People have told me that they wanted to follow a CR path, but couldn’t figure out how, so they became Heathen. (Also, there was no pronunciation guide for deity names.) CR folks could be vicious about cultural misappropriation of Celtic culture and books about Celtic Wicca, Celtic Shamanism and other things that the Celts never had – and yet aside from Erynn Rowan Laurie’s wonderful ogham book Weaving Word Wisdom, no one ever wrote a book on what CR was.

It’s hard to find Greek/ Hellenistic Reconstruction, Kemetic Reconstruction or Roman Reconstruction books, too. I gather bits off Wikipedia, blogs, and my own history books to send to people in prison who want to learn about those traditions.

The Internet is wonderful for finding academic papers, and barely OK for finding blogs or websites where scholarly knowledge about the deities and their worship have been written for the average Pagan. We really NEED books – actual books people without the Internet can read. The bar has to be set higher. Instead of talking down to readers with Wiccan, Druidry and Witchcraft rehashes, let’s assume that they’ve already read the original books, the best books, and give them something new.

Why is there no Gaulish Reconstruction book, but there’s online discussion groups and a few blogs – either dead or slowly beginning? I’m guessing that the idea of an anthology without strict dogma doesn’t appeal to people who all have their own ways to do the religion. Of course, that reality of diversity would make it a much more realistic, inspiring and helpful book. (That guess is just based on the old, disintegrated Gaelic Reconstruction scene.)

Please, self publish. Amazon’s CreateSpace and Kindle Direct merged. Steel Bars, Sacred Waters is a mammoth size book and costs less than $8 a copy. It’s available at Amazon in Europe and North America. They take a chunk, which is why I can sell it here directly from Gullveig Press for less and still have almost enough to mail a copy to prison. Aside from your book being much less expensive than if you used Lulu, most people in prison can receive books from Amazon, but not “self published” – and that’s important! 1 in 1000 Americans are incarcerated Pagans and they want good informative books. The average prisoner has an 8th grade education (which is why dictionaries are so in demand), but you can explain important, lofty information in simple language and shorter sentences, especially with maps and other visuals. Steel Bars, Sacred Waters monthly devotion to Rosmerta and 3 page guide to Gaulish history by Viducus Brigantici filius are amazing proof of this.

 

Gaulish Festival Calendar: Telesphorus, the Most Famous Celtic Deity You’ve Never Heard Of

— During the first few weeks of January, Telesphorus is the focus of the Celtic Pagan who worships deities who were honored in lands conquered by Rome.

med wheel 010
Modern American Medicine Wheel and Nightmare Catcher by Heather Awen (not intended as cultural misappropriation, but was inspired by my frustration with white people selling parts of Native American religion and culture)

In the spirit of “indigenous interpretation” in which peoples conquered by the Roman Empire reinterpreted their native religion to fit the Roman world, I have found many dates work for honoring the Gaulish and Brythonic deities. We start the year with the Festival of the the Roman deities Aesculapius, his mother, Coronis, and His daughter Salus (similar to the Greek Hygieia), as the time for honoring the important and ancient Gaulish God Telesphorus and the Gaulish Goddess Sirona.

The Roman festival was held during the first weeks of January, but worship of these Gods began with the ancient Greeks. Asklepios is the Greek name of Aesculapius, the son of Apollo. The staff with a snake wrapped around it that is still used as a symbol for medical professionals was originally that of Asklepios. He was part of the quest for the Golden Fleece and a student of Chiron. According to the Romans in 291 B.C.E., the healing God moved to Rome in the following manner:

“The Romans on account of a pestilence, at the instructions of the Sibylline books, sent ten envoys under the leadership of Quintus Ogulnius to bring Aesculapius from Epidaurus. When they had arrived there and were marveling at the huge statue of the god, a serpent glided from the temple, an object of veneration rather than horror, and to the astonishment of all made its way through the midst of the city to the Roman ship, and curled itself up in the tent of Ogulnius… And when the ship was sailing up the Tiber, the serpent leaped on the nearby island, where a temple was established to him. The pestilence subsided with astonishing speed.” (Anon, On famous Men 12, 1–3 L&R)

The worship of Aesculapius made its way to Britain where six inscriptions have been recovered. They are evenly distributed in the northern and southern regions, with two written in Greek. Even in the 11th century medical manuscript Medicina de Quadrupedibus an image of Aesculapius survived.

If we follow the Roman calendar, Sirona should be properly honored on March 30, the festival of Salus (meaning “salvation”), but as Sirona and Salus both have the imagery of the Greek Goddess Hygieia, Sirona definitely could be worshipped today by Her devotees. I personally can never get enough of Sirona!

However, our main focus is on the once hugely popular Telesphorus. From Steel Bars, Sacred Waters:

Telesphorus is a very old Celtic God brought to Anatolia (Turkey) by the Galatians in the 3rd-century BCE. Statues of him as a dwarf in a cloak with a pointy hood have been found along the Danube River and in Anatolia. Pointy hood hats were typical male Gaulish clothing. Telesphorus was associated with the Greek God of medicine, Asclepius, and became the brother of the health Goddess Hygieia. Telesphorus is the God of recovery from a disease. He was brought back West with the Roman Empire in the 2nd-century CE.”

Telesphorus means “the Accomplisher” as He will not stop until the healing has been accomplished. We have so little information about the deities worshipped in Galatia, this knowledge is a real find. If Hygieia was His Greek sister, it wouldn’t be illogical to consider Sirona His sister as well, although the two were never associated in the Gallo-Roman world as far as I’m aware. Little metal statuettes of a gnome with a pointy cap have been found in the Gallo-Roman era. They actually are made in two pieces: the Telesphorus-looking man is lifted to reveal an erect penis with legs. Are these later Roman images of the Accomplisher?

The southern Gauls had chosen to adopt parts of Greek culture including the deities Apollo and Hermes. I’ve often wondered if the worship of Hermes is why the Gauls so readily took to the worship of Mercury, a Roman God even the Romans did not worship with such passion. Was Hermes already firmly established in some Gaulish communities as the God of magic, that the Gaulish Mercury – more as Hermes – was naturally understood as another title for Lug? Then Mercury became more… Mercury over time? Apollo was later adopted by the Romans during a plague, when Telesphorus was already adopted by the Greeks.

Telesphorus is a wonderful reminder that trade of goods, ideas and deities was never a one-way exchange. An ancient healing God of the Gauls, He went with them on their eastern migration. He was almost definitely worshipped in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. The healing powers of Telesphorus must have been so consistent, He was constantly called upon by the ill and injured as well as their healers. His fame brought Him to ancient Greece, where He was fit into the primary family of the deities of healing. While still being worshipped by the Galatians and eastern Gauls, the Romans took up His cult and carried it back west. It went even further than in the past, arriving on the isle of the Britons, where the multicultural Roman soldiers in the north and the more cosmopolitan Britons in the south joined in honoring Telesphorus.

If Telesphorus is one of the longest-worshipped Celtic deities and one whose devotees were quite possibly the most wide spread, from across most of Europe and into Asia, why haven’t you heard of Him? People seem to like myths – even if they were written in confusing fragments by Christians with regional political agendas after the formal Pagan religions were gone. Some people seem to think that there’s an actual ancient book called the Irish Mythological Cycle that contains all the full stories of the Tuatha De Danann. Then from that, we find all the information about the Gaelic deities. In reality it’s much messier, with lots of the Bible, bits of Roman era history, and modern commentary about Ireland’s provinces and the Viking invasion revised and woven into the stories so they’d have meaning that the people then understood. Different myths or different versions of the same stories are found in different manuscripts. Meanwhile, folk tales and fairy lore are included with a cautious optimism, often forgetting that many people writing about the Celtic peoples in the Victorian age were occultists or educated in Classical mythology. Clearly many knew what they wanted to find and made their conversations with rural Christian communities fit their theories. There’s nothing wrong with using these sources as long as you understand the motives and perspectives of the authors. Most Pagan books give you a version of a deity someone modern created without looking at the source material, based on their religious needs, and tend to be the least reliable.

Humans are storytellers. We create narratives about ourselves, about those around us, about current events, about the past and even the future with our hopes and anxieties, filtered through a cultural and personal lens. We naturally want narratives about our deities. Yet one reason why I feel drawn to the less known Celtic deities is because there’s no one else’s filter between me and the God. Telesphorus tells me who He is by telling me what he does: Accomplishes the healing that is needed. Centuries of worship in three cultures (or four, if you don’t include the Britons as Celts because they were never called Celts unlike those tribes in Iberia and Gaul) tells me that He’s good at what he does. His inclusion into the Greek family of divine healers tells me that He works well with other deities. We have a team player who no matter where or when healing must be accomplished, He will do it.

From that, I begin a relationship by making offerings and having conversations that are mostly one sided as I discuss my unhealthy past with medical “professionals” mainstream and alternative who took my money and took me for a hell ride, the effects of multiple misdiagnoses on my sense of identity, gratitude for how it’s made me firsthand aware of other people’s medical and emotional needs in a wide range of disorders, plus I mention my own health concerns, goals and requirements.

Sometimes I meditate on images of Him in copyrighted photos from museums. I imagine the people who came to Him in so many places, their clothes, their concerns, their body language pleading for help. I ask Him to guide my doctor. I visualize Him giving me a physical mostly thinking of the Greek humors, astrology and ideas of diet, fresh air and exercise, but also so much more than any one modality can provide – kind of like my doctor who is a MD and DO, training with a Naturopathic doctor especially in homeopathic remedies and herbs, and work history in pharmacies and health food stores. Telesphorus and I work together if the meditation leads to mystical union, a blissful non-me state of nothing and everything, which I owe to years as a girl with a lot of Hindu and Sikh yoga and meditation for my religious training.

The Ceremony

During the first few weeks of January, Telesphorus is the focus of the Celtic Pagan who worships deities who were honored in lands conquered by Rome. Of course He can be honored by other Pagans, including Gaelic polytheists, and those who worship the deities of Greece and Rome. Telesphorus is, like I said, a team player so regardless of what other deities you worship, He’ll join in like a visiting physician, respectful of His colleagues. After all, They all are concerned about their devotee/patient’s recovery, not inter-pantheon bickering. (That seems to be the angry work of xenophobic humans who want to control those they worship.)

Offerings are for you to determine. Grains, fruits, statuettes, wine and more were common offerings in Roman Empire, as was the building of shrines. Celts (and Britons, if we’re going to separate them like some scholars now do) seemed to prefer broken (ritually killed so they are sacred ie sacrificed) art, jewelry and weapons, along with pottery filled with food and drink (wine, ale) wrapped in beautifully woven fabrics. All cultures sacrificed animals, but they butchered all their own meat and were well trained in it. Very few of us have to daily kill our own animals daily so we do not have the skills to do it properly and a poorly performed sacrifice is a very bad omen worldwide. The Celts did not offer wild, hunted animals, but instead sacrificed the domestic ones of their farms. I actually have offered organic animal crackers and found that they were just as appreciated as the boar jerky my mother found. It’s suspected that dairy products were offerings as well, as cheese has been found in bogs where sacrifices were common (although maybe just as a way to preserve it for later), and insular Celtic folklore says to leave out cream for the Good People.

Roman and Celtic festivals had music and feasts, along with Priests reciting prose or poetry perfectly (in Rome if the Priest made a mistake, he had to start over; we don’t know how the Gauls did it) and performing divination to understand the messages from the deities. The rural Roman rites often had peasants dancing and in the city Priests often danced. The Celts typically walked or danced (we don’t know how they moved) in a clockwise circle to start ceremonies, possibly for long times around a pole statue of the deity. Both cultures met in sacred groves and at rivers and lakes.

I’m currently battling a medication-resistant form of thrush while my hyperreactive immune disorder Mast Cell Activation Syndrome is triggered by work on an apartment in my building and the neighborhood wood smoke that doesn’t let up due to the school break. My mother who also has MCAS is battling the insomnia, fatigue, and brain fog with me, as our toxic loads grow daily. Telesphorus will be greatly welcomed into our home!

May you be well!

 

* If you are interested in scholarly research about Pagan Roman culture and religion (which I find helpful for imaging the world of the Gauls and Iberian Celts), check out the Nova Roma website. It’s where I got my Roman calendar. Their information is also available in books, which I quite like.