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

 

UllR & Ullin: Glorious Couple of Norway & Sweden

Ullensaker_komm.svg
Cost of Arms of Ullensaker

I read somewhere the theory that Saint Hulbert, honored on November 22, is actually the very ancient Germanic God UllR. If it’s true, I don’t know, but it gives me an entrance to discuss such an important God – and Goddess! Yes, UllR has a much neglected sister and/or wife named Ullin, probably with a relationship like those of Fjörgyn and Fjörgynn or FreyR and Freya.

His Name – Already known in 200 CE

His name seems to comes from wolþu- which means “glory”. Wuldor is used in parts of kennings for the Christian God in Old English, but there’s no evidence that Wuldor was ever a Saxon God. However, it’s helpful to remember that most deities’ names are titles. If UllR does descend from the title “glorious one” or something similar, He’s mentioned in one of the oldest recovered Elder Futhark inscriptions. A chape from a scabbard found in the Thorsberg moor, Denmark from around 200 CE has an inscription that reads:
owlþuþewaz / niwajmariz
owlþu means something about “glory” while -þewaz means “servant, slave”. It’s thought to be a name or job title “servant of the glorious one” with niwajmariz meaning “well-honored”. Many scholars think it refers to a Priest of UllR. That someone is called a deity’s slave may give us insight into how the Iron Age Germanic tribes understood Priesthood. Was “well-honored slave of UllR” owned by UllR, called to a vocation of service without free will? Does this have anything to do with UllR’s early role as the Norse God of oaths? These are just ideas to spark questions about how differently people thought in communal polytheist cultures and highlight the importance of UllR even then.

UllR’s Only Myths: Ceremony and Kingship

The two of oldest poems in the Poetic Edda, Atlakviða and Grímnismál, are our only real literary references to UllR. He lives in a yew grove, a tree used for making bows. “Yew” (ýr) was sometimes used to mean “bow”. Later I’ll focus on how He is referred to as the archer God and why that wouldn’t have much relevance for Icelandic settlers.

UllR is the God named a ceremony:  “Ullr’s and all the gods’ favour shall have, whoever first shall look to the fire; for open will the dwelling be, to the Æsir’s sons, when the kettles are lifted off.”

To me, this seems pretty straight forward. We know that fire was a common way to give offerings to the deities for all Indo-European language speaking people. The Norse made such offerings; Freya‘s devotee had an altar of blood made smooth as glass by fire. Funeral pyres took people to Valhalla or Hel, as is the case with the God Balder. The hearth fire is the most important of all fires. Fire is the way to reach the deities, the gateway to Their worlds. The first to look at the hearth fire when nothing is blocking it has the honor of seeing past the gate at the same time that the Gods will look upon the home. The Gods will bless that person.

We know that the Gods and mortals connect at the fire in any dwelling. The fire is holy. When we look at the fire, we must always remember that. The first to do so by looking at the fire receives the blessings of the Gods. If there’s more to it, like the Gods travel into the building through the fire, the Gods communicate with the first person by signs in the flames, etc we don’t know. (I say Gods because it’s the Æsir’s sons. The poet excludes the Goddesses rather explicitly.)

But why is UllR the only God named? Was He the Father God for some Scandinavians? We know that such a decentralized religion without bards for the regular people, the myths and practices were different from region to region, tribe to tribe, kingdom to kingdom. There’s no reason to assume that Odin was the top of the pantheon for all Norse Heathens. Tyr was the top God in the beginning, which means that there were originally very different Germanic myths about the formation of the worlds and anything else starring Odin. I’d like that reality to sink into the reader’s understanding of the ancient, thriving, wide spread Heathen cosmologies, practices and mythology. The myths we know weren’t the myths for all Germanic-speaking polytheists.

Evidently the farther back we go, the more important UllR as King becomes. Read the relevant 12th century story in Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danorum. The deities survive as Magickal beings, somewhat like how medieval Irish monks turned the Gaelic Gods and heroes into the Fae. UllR as the Latinized Ollerus is a wizard who marked a bone with spells. The magic bone can cross the seas as fast as a rowed ship, allowing UllR to travel over waters blocking His way. (I’m guessing that this is where some modern Heathens got the idea that UllR invented ice skates using bones on His feet. There’s nothing in the source material to suggest that the seas He crosses are frozen and He clearly has one bone, however.)

UllR here is associated with Magickal travel over water, which would be an odd thing for Saxo to just make up. FreyR has a Magickal ship, Njord is the God of sea-faring voyages (not the actual ocean, as I’ve heard too many educated Heathens say) and Freya as Mardoll is associated with the Sea. This connection with the Vanir repeats itself in many aspects of what we know about UllR.

Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danorum suggests that there was a bioregional or historical struggle between UllR and Odin for top God. Odin is exiled and Ollerus is chosen to replace Him. This Ollerus does under the name Odin until the actual God Odin is allowed to return after ten years. I know some Heathens don’t use Saxo Grammaticus as a primary source because he was a Christian, but so was Snorri Sturluson. If we can’t use source material that doesn’t call the deities actual deities, then all the Gaelic deities but The Dagda and The Morrigan never existed. At some time in some place in continental Scandinavia, UllR appears to have been the Alfather.

God of Oaths

The archeological evidence suggests that UllR was very powerful anywhere the Vanir were popular. In Norway, UllR is found in place names near Njord. In Sweden, it’s FreyR. In fact Lilla Ullevi (“little shrine of Ullr”) in Sweden is near Uppsala. Its arrangement of rocks in two rooms with four large post holes is from the Vendel Period. 65 oath “amulet rings” were recovered, clearly showing that UllR is a God of the oath. Oath Gods tend to keep the laws of society running smoothly. The Iberian Celtic God Tongoenabiagus and pan-Celtic Lug probably served a similar role, as Their names are related to oaths.

Norse God of the oath? Isn’t that Thor’s role? Not according to the final mention in the Poetic Eddas. The “oft-sworn oaths” between two men were taken “by Ullr’s ring”. UllR apparently fulfilled roles later/also held by Odin and Thor. With Heathenry having no Bible or formal Priesthood among the remote homesteads of the north, people had living traditions. Norse mythology is a literary construct, not a religious text. Snorri didn’t even include any myths about UllR and left out some key religious myths such as Odin sacrificing Himself to grab the magic of the runes.

For a God barely mentioned in the 13th century Icelandic writing of Snorri Sturluson, UllR certainly was widely and actively worshipped in Heathen Norway and Sweden. Yet Snorri may explain why Thor replaced UllR as the deity of making sure that people held to their oaths. UllR is called the son of Sif (whose name intriguingly seems to mean “relative by marriage”, as if She married into the Aesir family of deities). Sif has married Thor, who is UllR’s step-father.

It’s easy to imagine the thunder God marrying an important Goddess of a conquered or neighboring tribe. Thor was more popular than Odin for most “common people”. The Southern Saami even worshiped Thor as Grandfather with a wife associated with rowan berries. The Saami and the Germanic people traded language, religious practices and technology in Eastern Sweden. The amazing ships of the Norse came from Saami designs, and Swedish families had bear skeletons under their homes. The polar shamanic cult of the bear, especially important to the Saami, reached some ancient Swedes.

(It’s important to see this as yet another example of how the Germanic tribes were not xenophobic “nationalists” who never lived with “outsiders.” All fascist Heathens stating such nonsense need to study actual history. 25% of women in Heathen Iceland were Irish or Scottish, Christian and spoke Gaelic. So much for “not mixing cultures.” The Rus influence disappeared so quickly that the funeral record we have of a Rus is thought to contain Slavic elements.)

God of Archery

Snorri gives a brief description of UllR: beautiful, all the qualities of a warrior, called upon in duels, but most importantly, UllR is the best archer and “ski-runner” of all the deities. That’s been UllR, the ancient glorious God of the Germanic tribes, to most Heathens today. I find that very sad, because He and His sister – lover Ullin are great deities ignored because most people want myths. Again, the myths are literary creations. It was not as if Snorri was Mohammed recording the words of an angel from a God. It’s believed that the myths of UllR are so old, Snorri didn’t even know them. If you are seeking to reconstruct pre-Conversation era Heathenry, odds are in your favor that somewhere UllR and Ullin were very high ranking.

Neither UllR or Ullin are connected to any known place names in Denmark or Iceland. Icelanders clear cut Iceland so quickly all wood, including yew, had to be imported. Iceland never needed a military because the island was so remote. There was no need for warrior archers, specialists greatly valued in the military. For these farmers Thor and Frey were the most important, with Njord also vitally important because so much had to be imported. The oath God UllR never really made it to Iceland and part of His role went to His step-father Thor.

Where Were UllR and Ullin Worshiped?

What types of places were named after UllR and Ullin? As stated before, places near other places named for the Vanir Gods. Several Norwegian farms or clusters of farms are named for UllR, and one or two fjords. In Sweden Ullevi (“Ullr‘s sanctuary”) is found in Västergötland and Västmanland, while place names of His fields, mountains, towns, bays, lakes, groves and especially Ullstämma (“Ulls meeting”) also exist.

Christian policy has been to build churches where the religion was politically forced on Pagans worldwide, so we should expect to see this pattern with UllR. Instead, we get a twist. Ullin appears to have been the biggest threat to the new faith. Four early Christian churches were built on sites named for Ullin, places with the names Ullinshof (“Ullin‘s temple”), Ullinsvin (“Ullin‘s meadow”) and Ullinsakr (“Ullin‘s field”); one early church was built on Ullensvang (“Ullr‘s field”).  In Norway They seem to have an agricultural connection.

Vanir?

For the following reasons I consider UllR and Ullin to belong to whatever is meant by the Vanir deities: Their names and relationship seem to be similar to that of the royal FreyR (“Lord”) and Freya (“Lady”) as the Glorious God and the Glorious Goddess. Their names only appear in places where Njord or FreyR were popular, the two “for sure” Vanir Gods. UllR has a Magick boat, and only the Vanir have any direct connection to over seas travel. Sif, the mother of UllR (and we can probably safely presume of Ullin as well), is not originally from the Aesir. She married into the Aesir, which means Her children are from another “tribe” (or other Norse tribes’) of deities. Vanir could refer to deities who had their own strong regional cults and had to be forced into the literary mythology of 12 Gods ruled by one (Odin). That’s too similar to the Classical Greek mythology Snorri and other cosmopolitan medieval scholars would have known for me to take very seriously.

For example, Heimdall may be referred to as both Vanir and Aesir because He had an ancient following of His own. In the myth where He’s called Rig (a royal title) He creates the three castes of humans. (The 1/4 to 1/3 of Norwegians who were horribly treated slaves aren’t mentioned in mythology or by “authentic” Viking reenactment festivals.)

It’s easy to piece together more about who UllR and Ullin are when you study the known information. Whatever your personal hunch or opinion of UllR, we must admit that He is a very important God with a long history of Heathen worship. As He is the God of skiing it makes sense to honor Him as the winter months have begun.

A note on pronunciation: Ullur is the Icelandic spelling, so “UL-ur” makes sense. UllR, like FreyR, should just be Ull with a bit of a “z” at the end which is not in English. Since we call FreyR “fray” it makes sense to call UllR “Ul”. Modern North German languages write and say Ull. Latinized, He was the medieval Norse Ollerus, like how Njord is Nerthus or Joshua is Jesus.

 

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!

 

Bibliography

Broadbent, Noel, Lapps and Labyrinths: Saami prehistory, colonization and cultural resilience. Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press (2010)

Ellis Davidson, H. R., The Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. Penguin

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

Greer, John Michael, A World of Many Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism. ADF Publishing (2005)

Lafayllve, Patricia, A Practical Heathen’s Guide to Asatru. Llewellyn Publications (2013)

Lecouteux, Claude, Encyclopedia of Norse and German folklore, mythology, and magic, Jon Graham trans. Michael Moynihan editor. Inner Traditions (2016)

Perabo, Lyonel D., Article review of Brink, Stephan; “How Uniform was the Old Norse Religion?”

THE POETIC EDDA Translated with an Introduction and Explanatory Notes by Lee M. Hollander, 2nd Edition Revised, University of Texas (1962)

Saxo Grammaticus, Gesta Danorum, Books I-IX, translated to English by Oliver Elton (1905)

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

Short, William R., Icelanders in the Viking Age: The People of the Sagas. McFarland & Company (2010)

Sturluson, Snorri, The Prose Edda, Jesse L Byock trans. Penguin Classics (2005)

Van Cleef, Jabez L., God Wears Many Skins: Myth and Folklore of The Sami People. Spirit Song Text Publications (2008)

The Viking Anthology: Norse Myths, Icelandic Sagas and Viking Chronicles. Bybliotech (2014)

Wikipedia Ullr

Wodening, Swain, A Handbook on Germanic Heathenry and Theodish Belief, self published (2007)

Balder, Loki & Hela in the 6th Century: New Depictions of an Old Myth

I came across an article on Burgundian 6th century belt buckles by Speidel that appear to depict a scene from Balder‘s travel to Hel which was lost by the time of the Eddas. It seems to be a missing part of Baldrs Draumar. Loki‘s role as Balder’s adversary continues beyond death. They may depict a previously unknown gift to humanity of Balder’s. Our understanding of Hela is greatly improved as well.

The Image on the Saint-Maur Buckle

On the left, a tall woman leans out from a door, stepping to the right. In her right hand is a bent object, probably a torch. She is very tall and wears a dress with a long coat, similar to those worn by Scandinavian women at the time. Her hair is long and loose. Her raised eyebrows and open mouth show her anxiety and anger as she looks to the figure in the middle.

The middle figure is a short bird-man. His body is bell shaped and striped; his head is human. He wears a tight cap over messy hair and although he has eyes and his right eyebrow is angled in anger, he has no mouth. Two wings emerge from behind him, and his left arm can be seen.

Between the arm and bird tail is a twig with berries and four or five leaves on each side. His left wing shows ruffled feathers as if the tall woman is bothering him. He faces us, feet turned out, but leans away from the woman and toward the lion on his right.

The giant lion rears up on his back legs and roars at the man on his right. This man stands firmly facing us, feet turned outward. His head is turned partly to the right where another smaller lion attacks. The smaller lion is in position to tear open the man’s chest with one paw and his penis with another. The man stabs the larger lion on the left in the mouth with a curved sword. His bare left hand is shoved into the smaller lion’s mouth, while his thumb points to his own mouth.

The man’s chin sticks out. He’s bearded with sharp eyes. His hair has six curls that loop on the left into a hair knot. Rising from his head are nine rays. Around his neck is a narrow double necklace. His kirtle and undershirt are raised. And the man does something not found in Christian art but is known in Germanic magick: his pants are down enough to show his penis.

There is a Christian inscription around the buckle, but it covers something else. It’s hard to know what is underneath. In some places it’s letters while the rest may be knotwork. Unlike most buckles of the time, the inscription does not describe the image.

The Myth?

Who are these Heathen deities? Comparison with contemporary Heathen jewellery from Denmark and the Visigoths gives us the answers. The Kongsvad bracteates depict the same bird-man with a horizontally striped, bird-shaped trunk and a twig of mistletoe. Always portrayed as shorter than the other deities, He is Loki. The fifth and sixth centuries’ three-god bracteates from Gudme show Loki with bird wings and tail, a human arm and His symbolic mistletoe. Loki’s lack of a mouth may refer to when His lips were sewn closed by the dwarf Brokk.

We know this is Loki. He has His symbols. In the sixth century, this is how He was depicted and Germanic tribes from Spain to Denmark. Everyone understood what the symbols meant. Loki, the main agent of change in Norse mythology, is a bird-man. Normally He is depicted in scenes from myth with other deities, but a belt buckle from Lavigny in Switzerland depicts Loki alone and menacing, with bird claws for feet. We know exactly how Loki looked to the pre-Viking Heathens. (I think it would be wonderful for today’s Heathens to depict Him (and the other deities) in Their traditional ways.)

In the Eddas, the falcon cape He borrows or takes from Freya. Perhaps the cape was His originally. However, because Frigga has a hawk cape, I tend to believe that the bird of prey is a well established aspect of these Germanic Goddesses. Both names Freya and Frigga originally came from the same proto-Indo-European root found in the Sanskrit Priya “beloved.” In the early migration into Central Europe, the people who would later develop the Celtic and Germanic languages changed the meaning to “free” which probably reflected Their noble status as the leader Goddesses.

A Visigothic belt buckle from the same time depicts Balder on His way to Hel, with the same bird-man Loki between Him and Hela. The small Loki stands on a wild beast. The world tree with a throne, a wolf and an eagle stands between Loki and Hela.

As seen on the Cottel buckle and other metal work, a common way to identify Balder is with the rays rising straight up from His head. Balder typically wears a double necklace. The Himlingøje silver cups, the Grésin tile, and several bracteates all depict Him with curls. We now know that Balder has curly hair and wears a double necklace.

Balder also shows His penis to menacing beasts on the Visigothic Herrera buckle. The lions are replaced with a wolf and snake here and on the Cottel buckle. (Perhaps they are Loki’s other “monster” children?) They fit into the Germanic mythology and cultural fears better than the lions. The Völuspá mentions a warg-wolf and the Nidhögg dragon as dangers to those on the journey to Hel:

“There Nidhögg sucked
corpses of the dead;
the wolf slit men.”

In the magickal fight with the two animals Balder not only exposes his penis on the Saint-Maur buckle and Herrera buckle, but also on the Pramay disc and the Grésin tile. It is large and wards Him. It is interesting that on a journey to the World of the Dead, His life-giving penis is His magickal weapon.

While Balder‘s death is certainly an important myth in the Eddas, we learn very little about Balder Himself. He is a relatively passive figure in such an important myth. Balder’s protective fertility gives us a chance to gain a more complete understanding of who this key Germanic God is. Although some people interpret Him as the Sun, that has never “worked” for me. After all, we have Sunna.

Much of Norse mythology is about the creation of our cosmos from the gap between the raw materials of ice and fire (usually water and fire in Indo-European cultures) and the beloved Indo-European cow. Typical for Indo-European myth, the first ritual sacrifice is of the first being (the Jotun Ymir) whose body is divided into the world. The world tree appears with the three important wells at its roots, the Norns exist and water the tree with Wyrd, and deities turn drift wood into humans. While Thor and Loki go on adventures, Odin constantly prepares for the battle between the Jotun and the Aesir that will usher in the end of our cosmos with another time of fire and ice.

We are promised that the cycle will begin again. The world tree remains, with a female and male human hidden in its trunk. Asgard is renewed. Odin‘s favorite son Balder (who was safely hidden in Hel, the realm of the dead), takes His father’s place, joined by the other children of the Aesir and perhaps the Goddesses and Vanir such as Njord.

Balder certainly is a God of tomorrow’s rebirth, but not that of the Sun. Balder shines, but so does Heide, Heimdall, Sif‘s hair, Gerda, etc. The proto-Indo-European meaning of deity is “shining ones” probably referring to the Sun, moon and stars. Shining is what deities usually do.

Balder seems more related to Hindu concepts of Ages, the cycle of generating (Brahma), operating (Vishnu) and destruction (Shiva). These three Gods have lifespans of Their own, and reincarnate as Themselves after death. The world and the Universe always live again. Greek and Irish mythology wonderfully explain past ages and their monsters or deities, but don’t tell us about what will come next. Gaulish Druids, according to Roman sources, taught that the soul was immortal until it and this world are destroyed by water and fire. Water and fire are the main Indo-European ways to purify from disruptive forces. Combined, they are the Indo-European source of wisdom, spiritual connection, creative inspiration, healing, Sovereignty, etc.

The Norse give us information about the way our cosmos started and will (or may have, according to some Pagans) end and be reborn. The myth Balder’s Dream explains how the trouble-making Loki tricks Balder into being killed. Then Loki ruins Balder’s chance to leave Hel. Although the deities grieve, this keeps Balder safe until the next cosmos is born. If Balder lived only to die when the Jotun and Aesir kill each other, there would be no God to be chieftain of the Aesir in the next cosmos. Loki makes sure that the prophecies which Odin learned from the dead volva will come true. Loki often does Odin‘s dirty work, like stealing Freya‘s necklace for Odin. As the two are blood brothers, perhaps this is Loki’s role. Yet Loki seems to have gone even further originally.

Depicted in these belt buckles, Balder travels Helveg the path to Hel, the same road Balder’s half-brother Hermóðr took to find Him. We learn that Balder has to fight two monstrous creatures that Loki put in His way. Here Balder is an active figure in His journey to become ruler of the next cosmos. But He may also serve as a trailblazer on Helveg, a type of psychopomp. Even though Balder does not guide the dead, He does fight the monsters we’ll have to face.

The buckle may be showing the dangers almost all of us will face when traveling to Hel. Odin encountered a traditional Indo-European dog guarding the road to Hel. Although the lions could have been adapted from the Christian legend of Daniel and the lions, two hounds are common in Indo-Iranian myth. In the Avesta the bridge the dead must cross is guarded by two dogs, while according to the Vedas Yama has His own two hounds that seize the dead. The people who became Germanic speaking tribes may have believed that two hounds guarded the road to Hel. Perhaps these buckles served as reassuring reminders of how Balder successfully completed the journey we will take, and when that time comes Hela will welcome us to Her realm.

Hela is always depicted on on bracteates as a very tall, grim woman, attired in a long dress, standing in or by her hall. Holding up an object thought to be a torch, She greets the newly dead. Burgundian and Frankish buckles and fibulas show Her hair as pointing down the center of Her forehead. A similar image is on the Mauland medallion. Hela uses Her torch to scare off Loki and His lions as She welcomes Balder. Hela will light our way and help us overcome the snake and wolf, the two lions or hounds, that may attempt to make us draugar. (The draugar will be discussed further.)

The belt buckle also depicts a cuirass, which is also found on the the bracteate IK 3. On the bracteate Hela receives the trophy of a cuirass on a pole from Balder’s wife Nanna, so we know that Nanna was in the myth even then. The funeral gift of fabric may be Frigga preparing Nanna to take Frigga’s role as spinner of destiny with the ability to know everything which will happen.

Hela obviously understands Her special role as guardian of Odin‘s favorite son. Loki‘s interference worries Hela enough to move against Her father and cause Him some frustration. The Eddas never describe the relationship between these two family members who play such important roles in Norse mythology. Here perhaps we see that Hela, like the other deities, is angered by Her father when He disrupts the right order and jeopardizes the cosmos. And He does this in HER realm.

There’s a clear separation between the living and the dead which people worldwide maintain with funerals involving psychopomp deities. (I believe that much of the separation comes from the practical awareness that dead bodies rot and attract disease spread by flies. Death must not pollute the drinking water either. The Greek concept of miasma may have possibly originated at least in part due to the physical pollution caused by dead bodies.) The Saxons hung blackberry or raspberry branches in windows and on doors to prevent the return of the recently deceased. Until the dead reach where they are meant to be, most societies have traditions to protect the living from following the dead, and to keep the dead from returning.

Funeral rites keep the protective order of purity in place. But if Balder, the most pure of the Gods, cannot reach Hel, where will He go? He cannot return to the living and Loki strives to keep him from His rightful place in Hel. But Hela knows Her role in preserving Balder. She is so concerned that She watches from the gate in Hel’s fence, waving Her torch at Loki and upsetting His feathers. If something goes wrong when we travel along Helveg, we can count on Hela to maintain the proper order.

There’s a long history of Germanic, even proto-Germanic, peoples fearing the return of the dead. “Usually in the sagas the attempts of the living are concentrated on keeping the dead within the grave….” wrote Hilda Roderick Ellis, explaining that “Draugr is the word used for the animated corpse that comes forth from its grave-mound, or shows restlessness on the road to burial.” The Celto-Germanic words developed by Indo-European tribes probably in Central Europe 4,000 years ago include the root of draugar, showing just how ancient this fear is.

Dwarves are considered by many scholars to have a connection with the dangerous dead. Originally made from maggots, dwarves live underground and often having names meaning “Black,” “Deceased,” “Torpid,” “Death,” “Corpse,” “Cold,” and “Buried beneath the Cairn.” Thor keeps the dwarf Alvíss “The One Who Knows All” engaged in conversation until the sun rises and the dwarf turns to stone. (I think it is important to remember that Thor defeated Alvíss with His wits, because too often is He treated like a stupid thug.)

The Belt Buckles

The Visigoths in Spain wore belt buckles depicting the same deities as Scandinavians. Although the 6th century Burgundians belt buckles usually are about Christian themes, two well known ones, the buckles from Saint-Maur and Saint-Quentin, provide us with ancient images of Heathen deities. The buckle from Saint-Maur is 10 x 5 cm.

 

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!

 

Bibliography

Albertsson, Alaric, Travels Through Middle Earth: the Path of a Saxon Pagan. Llewellyn Publications (2009)

Ellis, Hilda Roderick, M.A., PhD., THE ROAD TO HEL A Study of the Conception of the Dead in Old Norse Literature, Idunnas Press (2011)

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

Lecouteux, Claude, Encyclopedia of Norse and German folklore, mythology, and magic, Jon Graham trans. Michael Moynihan editor. Inner Traditions (2016)

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

THE POETIC EDDA Translated with an Introduction and Explanatory Notes by Lee M. Hollander, 2nd Edition Revised, University of Texas (1962)

Sturluson, Snorri, The Prose Edda, Jesse L Byock trans. Penguin Classics (2005)

Speidel, Michael P., Burgundian Gods on Sixth-Century Belt Buckles. (2010)

Swami Achuthanada, The Reign of the Vedic Gods. Relianz Communications Pty Ltd (2018)

Samhain’s More Accurate Meaning?

Here’s a look at a new meaning of Samhain, from the short but clear guide to Celtic beliefs about death and rebirth and crow/raven Goddesses, snagged from an essay by Brendan Mac Gonagle. Look for the full essay, with art depicting the Celtic myth of rebirth, and get a great insight into Celtic mythology, funeral practices, and many Goddesses.

Check out Brendan Mac Gonagle at Academia.edu and the fabulous balkancelts: Journal of Celtic Studies in Eastern Europe and Asia-Minor, https://balkancelts.wordpress.com.

Happy New Year!

SAMONOS / SAMHAIN / HALLOWEEN – ON THE CELTIC FESTIVAL OF THE (NOT QUITE) DEAD 

(21/10/2017) by Brendan Mac Gonagle

This concept of death and rebirth is also reflected in the etymology of the Celtic Samhain “the Festival of the Dead”. The traditional interpretation, first put forward in Medieval glossaries, and still held by many, is that it means “summer’s end”, being a combination of Samh “summer” and Fuin = “ending, concealment”. This is obviously a later folk etymology, since we know that the earliest form of the word (Samon-) had a different meaning. In fact the original Celtic meaning of “Samhain‟ comes from the Proto-Celtic *samoni– = assembly….

The original meaning of *samoni– therefore would be “assembly of the living and the dead”….

Encapsulating the Celtic concept of reincarnation, Samhain therefore marks the beginning of darkness, and thus the beginning of life, a time for “The Gathering” of all beings; as darkness comes before light, so life appears in the darkness of the womb, all things having their beginning in the fertile chaos that is hidden from the rational mind. Thus, the year begins with its dark half, holding the bright half in gestation as the seeds lie in apparent death underground, although the forces of growth are already at work. The moment of death – the passing into the concealing darkness – is itself the first step in the renewal of life.

“If what ye sing be true, the shades of men

Seek not the dismal homes of Erebus

Or death’s pale kingdoms; but the breath of life

Still rules these bodies in another age –

Life on this hand and that, and death between.”

– Roman poet Lucanus, 1st century CE, (Pharsalia Book 1:453-456)

 

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!

The Bronze Age Celto-Germanic Linguistic & Archeological Link: Spain and Scandinavia?

Lots of research is being done on the Celto-Germanic words that appear to have developed between Norse sailors trading amber with Celtic coastal Iberian sailors who had copper during the Bronze Age. Iberian Celts with their many Celtic languages may have been influential in the creation of the Celtic languages.

These words are thought to have originated about 4,000 years ago around the Czech Republic. They link directly to Nerthus, Macha, Nemed, Babd and the new interpretation of the root of Freya‘s and Frey‘s names, “free people, friends” (as opposed to slaves). Priya no longer meant beloved. There’s evidence of the Celto-Germanic shared culture along the northern Atlantic coast.

A pre-Celtic culture spread along the Atlantic coast from the Pillars of Hercules (Straight of Gibraltar) to Scotland, with similar tomb design and decorations. There’s a 6th century BCE inscription to Lug (Lugus) written in Phoenician script from the southwest coast of Portugal. Iberian Celts lived in a cattle-based hillfort culture very similar to Ireland’s in some places, and large walled cities like the Gauls in others. Some evidence shows that there were more Celtic settlements in Iberia than France. Deities Lugus and Epona were very popular.

And it’s where the newest discoveries are being made, totally changing our ideas about the history of the wide diversity of Celtic peoples. If you aren’t paying attention to Iberia, you’re missing out on the “new Celtic history.”

 

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!

 

Bibliography

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

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

Celtic Festival Calender: Taranus and Reue & Trebaruna

taranus wheel- Armi Dee
Taranus wheel by Armi Dee

September 1, date of ceremonies held for Jupiter Tonans (“the Thunderer”) and Juno Regina, is the date that started my adventure in noticing times in the Roman calendar that would nicely match celebrations of many Celtic deities. Gaulish deity Taranus (pronounced “tah-RAH-nus”) is an all-seeing sky God whose name relates to thunder. He was associated with Jupiter, the traditional Indo-European sky father and head of the Roman pantheon. As Jupiter Tonans, the two Gods have the most in common.

The Jupiter columns in southern Gaul often maintained the Celtic tradition of depicting Gods with Goddesses: Jupiter sits on His throne by Juno Regina, Juno in Her Queen aspect. Some scholars consider this part of Celtic cosmology, where the king only rules because he’s been chosen by the Sovereignty Goddess. Ancient Gaulish burials often had similar stone carvings of a husband and wife side by side on thrones. The Jupiter columns are a good example of Gallo-Roman religion, where aspects of each culture are merged into something that everyone could understand in their own way.

So here we have a day dedicated to not just Jupiter Tonans, but Juno Regina as well! The first of the month (probably the new moon in the older calender) is always dedicated to Juno; it’s just fascinating that as Juno Regina She happens to share the date with Jupiter Tonans, the aspect of Jupiter most like Taranus.

In Eastern Gaul She was also called (dea) Regina (“Queen Goddess”). Regina is a Latin version of the Celtic deity name Rigani associated once with the Celtic Goddess Rosmerta (“Great Provider”). Three times in Upper Germany Celts called Juno (dea) Candida Regina “the Bright Queen Goddess,” a title unused by Romans. This adds an even greater Celtic depth to the date.

Very excited, I said to myself, “I finally have a time each year to honor Taranus!” It’s hard to try to plan ahead for the year’s first thunder storm, although I always welcome Him. This way, a deity very important to me gets an annual offering and is the focus of my devotion. If Taranus was paired with a Goddess, we don’t know who She was, but an altar was found for the son of Taranus in modern Germany.

Most people think His name is spelled Taranis, the way the Roman poet Lucan later recorded it, but many scholars think that Taranis was a Celtic epitaph for Jupiter. With Gauls in the Roman military, the God traveled to Britain, where an inscription read “To Jupiter Best and Greatest Tanarus.” If any Britons worshiped Taranus before the Roman invasion is unknown. The earliest known mention of Taranus is from a 1st century CE dedication where lightning had struck. This was a common practice in Southern Gaul, although other names for local thunder Gods were also used. Perhaps Taranus was one of many titles for this Gaulish deity.

He is not named in many inscriptions, but the Gaulish Celts must have viewed Taranus as a very powerful God, watching from the heavens and controlling the thunderbolt. It is believed, that like Lugus, Taranus was originally very popular, but much of his cult merged with a Roman deity. That is why in the Roman era, when things were written, there was so little written about Him.

Luckily, we have lots of His symbol, a sky or sun wheel. Originally the wheel was very large and seems to have been a tribal offering. The Romans brought mass produced offerings for the individual to buy and use. Taranus‘s wheel became small and bronze, buried with Gaulish princes. Others made offerings of the wheel in wells. It’s a popular symbol for modern Gaulish polytheists including as a pendant. (Check Etsy for the hard-to-find Taranus wheel. Use “Taranis wheel” because most people don’t know how to spell His name.)

I have been very blessed by Taranus, who told me to make an outdoor shrine to Him so He, in His form as the storm would skip over my home. I thought He was speaking metaphorically, but I’ve learned that the deities are normally very direct. Hurricane Sandy hit a few months later, and while I was annoyed the cable went out for 20 minutes, the town’s fire trucks were washed off bridges, my neighbor’s has a branch destroy their car, and almost everyone for miles didn’t have electricity for days. It was a lesson in pre-verbal communication, and the old metal wheel I’d found one day picking up trash and foraging carried a strong message.

A friend found it important to point out that deals with deities don’t always work. Her aunt was certain a certain Saint would heal her, but she didn’t get better. So I want to make clear that the two times deities clearly helped me in dangerous situations They spoke first and gave Their own instructions. Freya asked for me to write about Her “cousin deities” and my other ancestral deities, the  Celts, in Steel Bars, Sacred Waters in exchange for curing me of Lyme and Babesia; Taranus told me to build the shrine. In the case of Brigid saving my life, that was Her grace, and I believe She’s a very generous Goddess even if I don’t feel a deep connection with Her. Her offerings from Catholics and Pagans both keep Brig well fed!

Reue and Trebaruna

Although not associated with Thunder, the Iberian God Reue (pronounced “RU-eh”) was probably later linked to Jupiter. From the mountain where Reue‘s energy was said to reside, Larouco in Portugal, He had an excellent view of the other mountains. Another inscription near the Sierra Marão named him as the God of Them. Indo-European sky fathers are usually connected to tall mountains, and for that reason some scholars consider Reue an Iberian version of Jupiter.

Reue‘s name, however, possibly means “river” and many rivers were named after Him. Perhaps Reue is a title meaning “God of this river” and modern Celtic Iberian polytheists could name their local river Reue (name of river).

How could an important deity like Reue be both the mountains and the rivers? Rivers are fed from tributaries in the mountains which converge and flow into the valleys. (We see this also with the Goddess Abnoba.) For a culture that honored fresh water with such devotion, the source of the water – be it mountaintop or spring welling up from the ground – was sacred. It obviously needs to be the same for Celtic Pagans, with real action taken to clean them out, use biodegradable nontoxic cleaning supplies (including on the body and hair) and protect them from agricultural and factory run off.

Gaulish Druids were said to teach in caves, although they have fine homes. Some scholars believe that the darkness helped people listen and learn from an oral tradition. In the cave of Cabeço das Fraguas two deities were worshipped, Reue and Trebaruna (pronounced “treb-ah-ROO-nah”). They may have been a divine couple.

Trebaruna‘s name combines “home” with “mystery” suggesting that Trebaruna is a Goddess of protecting the home and family. Two small shrines dedicated to her have been found in Portugal. One mentions the sacrifice of the sheep.

I’m really not sure why based on the meaning of Her name and the material evidence, but some modern Pagans worship Her as a battle Goddess. Perhaps they consider Her a Sovereignty Goddess, defending Her home lands?

From Steel Bars, Sacred Waters:

“Invocation to Trebaruna by Heather Awen

“I call to you, Trebaruna,
Protecting hearth and home.
Your arms hold every babe, your eyes watch every child.
You protect the women spinning yarn
And weaving fates.
This space is sacred;
Your spirit guards the door.
Mystery of life, strength of family and friends,
Trebaruna, may my life honor your name.”

Although there is no direct evidence that Reue was associated with Jupiter, scholars believe it is likely that He was. Any time I can bring Iberian Celtic deities to the attention of the public, I will! Most of them had large followings and are only known today in academic journals. 

Tomorrow I’ll catch you up on the Iberian Celtic and Scandinavian connection!

 

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!

 

Selected Bibliography

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, The Ancient Celts. Oxford University Press (1997)

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)

Haussler, Ralph, The Civitas Vangionum: a new sacred landscape at the fringes of the Roman Empire?

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)

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: Brigantia, Matres Brigiacae, Bricta/Brixta, Brigindona, Brig & Rome’s Victoria & Bellona

BrigitteCelt
Brigantia, Museum of Brittany

This is part of a series where festivals for Roman deities are matched with the Celtic deities who were associated with the Roman deities. For example, March 1st is the Festival of Mars, and many Celtic Gods were connected with the Protector of Rome. As tribal protectors Themselves, they could have been identified as Mars by the Romans or the Celts.

The Romans weren’t very involved in Celtic religion. After slaughtering the politically powerful Druids (some of whom may have become teachers and philosophers in Rome), the Romans let local cults continue. Southern Gauls already adopted the Greek Gods Apollo and Hermes, and later Gaulish merchants readily brought the cult of Mercury to their towns.

For the sake of convenience, the Romans described other people’s deities as being like their own. In a multicultural society, it made it easier for Romans. However, it appears that Celtic people often had the power to decide which Roman deity was the best fit. As different Celts had different understandings of Roman deities and Celtic deities didn’t fit neatly into x = y, a Celtic God could be called Mars in one region and Mercury in another.

As the Celtic polytheists worked with the new Roman ways, I suspect some used the Roman calendar for their Festivals, especially September 1st, when Jupiter (who was identified as Taranus) was honored as the God of lightning and Juno was celebrated in Her Queen aspect. That’s the same Juno aspect southern Gauls had on their Jupiter columns, with the wheel of Taranus, eagle of Jupiter, lightning of both and a Sovereignty Goddess.

June 3rd is the Festival of the Sabine war Goddess adopted by the Romans named Bellona. Bellona was considered an aspect of the important Roman Goddess Victoria, Whose Festival date, if She had one, is lost. Wikipedia sums Victoria up nicely: “Victoria was a symbol of victory over death and determined who would be successful during war.”

Brigantia was the Goddess of the most powerful tribe (or federation of tribes) in Britain, the Brigantes. There are 7 inscriptions to Brigantia in Britain. Twice She was associated with Victoria in Yorkshire. An inscription calls her “divine nymph” and at Hadrian’s Wall She is described as “heavenly.” A couple of statues of Brigantia, including one in Brittany, have symbols that belong to the Roman Goddess Minerva. Due to Her association with Minvera, you could also honor Brigantia during the Greater Quinquatrus held between March 19 and 23. I had so much information on Sulis for that Festival, I stayed focused on Her.

Bellona was associated with the consort of Mars, and like Mars Her temple was on the outskirts of Rome. There is a theory that Mars is a border God, called on by soldiers defending Rome and farmers as they ritually circle their land. The idea that Mars was an agricultural God is based on a hymn sung to Mars by farmers in an annual ceremony protecting the edge of their lands, and an archaic rite by His Priests that no one understood.

I prefer the border God idea over the agricultural God theory. It fits with other old Indo-European ideas, especially Vedic, and is logical. The God of Rome guards Rome, from its farmers to its military. Mars stops danger before it can arrive. Temples at the edge of a border allow deities who “go wild” to have access to the wilderness. You don’t want war IN your town; you want to be protected before it gets to the town. Next to Bellona’s temple was the columna bellica, the edge of Rome. The temple and the land on which it stood was considered foreign soil. To declare war on a distant land, a Priest (in a rather Odin-like move) threw a javelin towards the enemy’s kingdom. Generals made offerings to Victoria after winning wars.

What happened on Her Festival was probably sacrifices, prayers, and feasts. At a different festival, the Priests of Bellona cut their arms and legs to offer their blood. Nothing like that is mentioned for today. Bellona had temples in France, Germany, Britain, and North Africa.

Brigantia means “the Most High Goddess” and is pronounced “brig-AN-tee-ah”. There are Goddesses with variations of Her name, all of Whom I would probably consider different Goddesses, like the Welsh Braint, the Matres Brigiacae in Peñalbo de Castro, Brigindona, and Bricta/Brixta, to name a few. All could be honored June 3rd even though they were never associated with a Roman deity, much less Victoria specifically.

The root word brigant- means “elevated, high.” The British Brigantes may have been named for being nobility or for living in the mountains. They were the largest tribe (or possibly a federation of tribes) in Britain when the Romans arrived. They controlled northern England, a territory known as Brigantia (today Yorkshire). Their wealth was based on cattle and sheep, and Brigantia may have been associated with that economy. Allies of Rome, they created an important buffer against the tribes in modern Scotland.

Many British nobles welcomed the Romans, thinking that they were gaining powerful allies. Enraged princes who didn’t become kings sought the help of Rome. At the time it seemed like a smart move.

Cartimandua (“sleek pony”) was the Brigantes’ queen when Rome arrived, and two lavish burials of women with chariots suggest that the Brigantes were used to powerful women. Her husband Venutius, king of the Brigantes, was a top military strategist and also loyal to Rome. In 51 CE Cartimandua captured a probable rival named Caratacus, a popular rebel leader against Rome. In exchange for Caratacus, Rome made Cartimandua very wealthy. Her people’s hillfort grew from 17 to 600 acres in 20 years.

Meanwhile, the royal couple went to war against each other in 51 AD and declared a truce 6 years later, after Cartimandua captured Venutius’ family and Rome sent troops to help her. They divorced over a decade later when she took Venutius’ armor-bearer Vellocatus as her lover. In 69 CE the Brigantes rebelled against her and she was taken to an unknown, safe place by Roman soldiers. Venutius ruled the Brigantian kingdom until 74 CE when Roman forces finally defeated him, wanting total control of Britain.

Although loyal and very helpful to Rome Cartimandua was portrayed harshly by the Romans, perhaps because she was everything a Roman woman should not be. Cartimandua obviously was a bold and savvy politician and enjoyed her sexual freedom. She and Boudicca are often used by Pagans and scholars alike as examples of the power held by the Celtic Queens of the Britons, something we don’t read about other Celts.

Ptolemy wrote that there was also a tribe named Brigantes in eastern Ireland, and there may be something to that. The Goddess Brig seems to have been brought to eastern Ireland by a tribe allied with the Brigantes and turned into a Saint. Political shifts that the old Pagan ways didn’t support had occurred and to hold onto their power, the new elites found having a Saint in the new religion was a good way to solidify authority. To combat powerful Ulster with its Saint Patrick, Leinster and sometimes eastern Munster had St Brigit. There was almost definitely a Christian community in Leincester before St Patrick ever arrived; Irish raiders who’d settled in modern Wales long enough to learn the new religion of Rome had returned home. There’s more about this in the post on February 2nd.

The root of Brigantia’s name appears in the names of towns in Portugal, Spain, France, Hungary, England, and Austria, and Strabo wrote that in the Alps lived a Celtic tribe named the Brigantii. The ancient name of Bragança in Trás-os-Montes, Portugal, was Brigantia. Its inhabitants today are still called brigantinos. Two cities in present-day Galicia, A Coruña and Betanzos, were named Brigantia and Brigantium. A prominent Bronze Age meeting-place for British tribes was on the shores of a river in a place called Brentford.

Brentford is connected to “prestige” in modern Welsh, coming from the same root as the Welsh word for King, brenin. Scottish Gaelic brigh and Manx bree translate to “power” while Irish Gaelic bri translates as “energy” and in Welsh, Cornish and Manx bre means “hill.” It’s easy to understand why so many places and Goddesses’ names derive from bri- and bree-.

The most famous Goddess linked to Brigantia is the Gaelic Goddess Brig, and Her incarceration as Saint Brigit/Brid. Brigit’s sacred fire was (and again is) in County Kildare, which is now part of the eastern province Leinster. An old Irish poem calls Brigit the sovereign lady who rules over the Kings of Leinster. The poem, when needing Her protection, calls for Brig, the name of the Goddess in the Mythological Cycle. Brig is sometimes confused with other powerful Goddess of the Tuatha De Danann in the different versions we have of Gaelic mythology.

In the Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of the Taking of Ireland), the Gaels descend from Noah (himself a descendant of Adam) of the Bible. Like the Israelites, they suffer many ordeals, until conquering Spain. Breogán founds the city Brigantia (perhaps A Coruña) and builds a tall tower, from which his son sees Ireland. Many of the Gaels stay in Iberia, but some sail to Ireland and successfully fight off the Tuatha De Danann. As the Lebor Gabála Érenn is our main source for the Mythological Cycle and has different variations, Irish mythology is rather messy. But Breogán’s name and the city he supposedly built again return to bri- and bre-.

Ireland and Iberia were part of an ancient shared culture before and during the Bronze Age, trading metals and other goods along the Atlantic coast, including all of Britain to the farthest Scottish islands, Brittany, France, and possibly Holland and Belgium. Sweden was at one time briefly connected. The Phoenicians became involved by the 9th century BCE. During the 10th century BCE at the latest they’d set up a large port town in Iberia. In the most southwest corner of Portugal a stone tablet was discovered, engraved in a Celtic language using the Phoenician alphabet. It thanks the pan-Celtic God Lug, and dates from 6th century BCE. Our understanding of how the Celtic languages and culture developed is moving quickly away from Hallstatt and looking towards the Atlantic coast.

In the 6th century BCE there was a large power shift in the Mediterranean. The Greeks began competing for the Atlantic coast, as Phoenician ports slowly disappeared, city by city, for several reasons. The Atlantic coast of Portugal and southwest Spain appear to have become part the trade routes of the Mediterranean, while Britain, Ireland, Brittany, and some of the French coast traded amongst themselves. Iberia spoke many different Celtic languages, brought in at separate times. Some near Galicia lived very similar lives as the Pagan Irish, moving twice a year with cattle and building hillforts. The Lebor Gabála Érenn may retain a memory about when those in Spain spoke the same language as the Irish, explaining it in a way that fits with Judeo-Christian mythology.

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)

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)

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

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

Gibson, Catriona and John Koch, Beakers into Bronze: Tracing connections between Iberia and the British Isles 2800-800 BC, CELTIC FROM THE WEST 2: Rethinking the Bronze Age and the Arrival of Indo-European in Atlantic Europe, John T. Koch and Barry Cunliffe (eds), Oxbow Books (2013)

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

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

Hughes, Kristoffer, The Book of Celtic Magic: Transformative Teachings from the Cauldron of Awen. Llewellyn Publications (2014)

Lang, Sean, British History for Dummies, 3rd ed. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd (2011)

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

Mosenkis, Iurii, Possible Sea Peoples activity in the Lebor Gabála Érenn

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

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

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

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

Turkilsen, Debbie, An In-depth Analysis of the Lives of Boudica of the Iceni and Queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes

Woodard, Roger D., Indo-European sacred space: Vedic and Roman cult. University of Illinois Press (2006)

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/

Eostre: Anglo-Saxon Dawn Goddess of April Ritual

Eostre Shrine of Heather Awen 2019
2019 Eostre Shrine, all materials explained in essay. Heather Awen

 

 

Prologue

I have a deep relationship with Eostre from when I lived nowhere near wood stove smoke and could spend from 3 or 4am until 6 or 7am outside. The carbon monoxide poisoning every day was lessened by the low temperature at which I set the thermostat during the night, so at 3 or 4 am I was brighter eyed (but with no bushy tail), and the Babesia blood parasites and Lyme disease gave me some relief when I first woke up.

Sitting outside every dawn in all weather (under a tiny porch roof in cold rains) I because very familiar with Eostre. Animals are so active then that it was often thrilling: the possum who walked over my foot; the fawn so close I could have touched it; locking eyes with a red fox for what felt like an out of body (or fully IN body) experience; and my regular companion, a very trusting skunk who seemed to think the same of me. I heard returning birds sing, seeking mates, and watched their young learn to fly.

And every day, no matter what, Eostre decorated the sky any way She chose. Like sand paintings, Her art of indigo, purple, pinks, oranges, greenish blues or shades of grey disappeared into Sunna’s bright white-yellow. It inspired me as an artist: it doesn’t matter who sees it or how the final piece looks, it’s the process and commitment to daily creating that matters.

I don’t know how my ancestors thought of Eostre. Saxons, Angles, Jutes, Swedes, Frisians and other Germanic peoples settled Britain aside from Wales (Welsh is Old English for “strangers”) and Gaelic Dal Riada. They most certainly had their own pantheons and religious customs. Many deity names may have been similar, but coming from different ecosystems and separated by time, local variations would have existed. Who brought Eostre to their new island home?

(To learn about the Anglo-Saxon cosmology, I recommend the free pdf versions of Bob Trubshaw’s books, available at Heart of Albion Productions, https://hoap.co.uk/catalogue.htm#aswv)

It frustrates me when I see Norse Heathens try to force continental deities into their pantheon. How many times have I read that the Belgic Goddess Nehalennia of the Morini tribe (from the Celtic word for sea) whose temples have been uncovered under the beach sands in modern Zeeland, Holland, is Idun? Why the dwarf Goddess Who is the power of immortality found in the apples that keep the deities young and immortal? Merely because Nehalennia in many of the 160+ stone images of Her holds apples – like dozens of other Goddesses in Roman-made or Roman-influenced art. Different tribes had different deities and mythology based on their history and bioregion. Nehalennia exists where She is needed.

My father’s side has many recorded newcomers to England: Offa/Uffi the Gentle, King of the Angles whose grandfather Wihtlaeg is a grandson of Woden; the Iclingas dynasty of Mercia in the 7th and 8th centuries; Queen Osyth, sister of Mercia’s King Penda (famous as the last great Heathen king in Britain), who married King Nechtan of Alba (Dal Riada); Princess Elfrida of England born in Wessex 877; Athelred Mucil, Ealdorman of the Gaini in Mercia; Oslac Wihtgarsson, royal cupbearer of Wessex; and King Wihtgar of the Isle of Wight who married into the Irish royal family of Ossory. What might Eostre mean to them? The converted ones, what customs did they continue during Christian Holy Week without knowing why?

Eostre

The Anglo-Saxon Goddess for whom the month of April is named, Eostre, has Her linguistic roots in the word East. The most holy direction for Indo-European people, this is where the stars, moon, and, most importantly for life to continue, the Sun rises. All things in the Northern Heavens turn from the East to the South and around to the West. The farthest North is an area of constant darkness and mystery. The Order of the World, the Xartus, is for the Shining Ones (the meaning of the proto-Indo-European word from which we get “deities”) to come to us from the East. (Planets in retrograde are the common exception.)

Usas is the Vedic Goddess of the Dawn, a cousin perhaps to Eostre. The Rig Veda offers many hymns to Usas. It is important that you do not confuse Vedic religion with Hinduism. I have noticed that some Pagans, hoping to better understand their own pantheons, look to Hinduism. Hinduism replaced the Priesthood religion of the Vedic deities. Priests seem to have become corrupt and the Vedic deities were demonized, demoted or otherwise greatly changed in Hinduism. Once you move away from the Vedas, you’ve moved into Hinduism. The farther you move to modern times, the more any proto-Indo-European similarities have vanished.

We have no ancient prayers to Eostre, just a name and a month. As her name is the basis for Easter the only movable holy time in the Christian faith, and the Anglo-Saxon calendar is a solar-lunar combination, we can figure out Eostre’s time of celebration. The first Sunday after full moon after the spring equinox is Easter, so Eostre’s festival was probably the first full moon after the spring equinox.

There is an association with youth and renewal in some German Easter folk practices, like wearing white and bathing the face with dew early on Easter morning. The Indo-European East/Dawn Goddess is always young and it makes sense that She is renewal. Oftentimes we read about deities and other MoreWorldly persons using dew gathered from healing plants to treat the ill; some believe this may be an early form of homeopathy. According to certain old documents, some herbs are meant to be collected when coated in the mysterious dew, a water out of nowhere. (The Manx Sea God Manannan Mac Lir’s chief physician Libra Primliaig gathers healing herbs while they still are covered with dew. Learn more in Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners.)

It may be that the white birch tree is a symbol of the proto-Indo-European dawn Goddess. Perhaps it is because She shines like the white birch, or it may be because birch are “pioneer trees.” In forest succession, after a prairie has brushes, birch trees are usually the first tree to populate the area. Although they live about only 70 years, their deaths are important: the birch restores much needed nutrients to the land so the next wave of trees can grow into a forest. I keep birth twigs and fallen bark on my Eostre shrine.

Many associate Eostre will eggs. Chicken living in natural light lay more eggs when there’s more sunlight. As She ushers in the lengthening days, people would be grateful for the eggs. (Remember how far north England is to understand why now would be the time of returning light.) Because of the recently created Easter Bunny, She is also associated with rabbits. However, the Easter Hare is from no earlier than 17th century Germany. Hares are often considered magical animals, perhaps because they are commonly seen in the grey markings on the surface of the full moon.

Still, the rabbit with its prolific breeding seems to fit the season of general fertility, and so it stays. Deities evolve, their symbols, offerings, and reason why mortals pray to Them change. They’re never static. A look at the long-recorded Kemetic, Greek, Roman or Hindu mythologies will show how the deities will always adapt with us. A study of the many changes in the Yorubaland Orishas as They were once worshipped in West Africa led by Priestesses and Priests, then worshipped by slaves informally and secretly in the Americas often associated with Catholic and Freemason societies, and now in formal neo-Yoruba religions with Priests and Priestesses often from the Iberian peninsula illustrates the way deities adapt to our circumstances.

I like to take lines from the hymns to Usas from the Rig Veda as my basis for my Eostre Hymn. Then I adapt the words to fit the spring as well. By then I’ve gotten that “holy feeling” and tap deeper into what my community and culture needs. They’re interwoven as more specific prayers, along with my praise and understanding of Eostre. I’ve included this year’s Eostre Hymn and some of the ancient Hymns to Usas. After Agni, the Vedic fire God whose flames consume the sacrifices to the deities, the next deity hailed by the Vedic Priests was Usas. She is generally considered benevolent, but there a mention of how each day basically brings us closer to death. Yet there’s also a mention of the ancestors long gone who saw the dawn as well. The cycle continues.

My ritual:

Food offering: organic local beef, organic local sheep milk yogurt, organic local goat cheese, loaf of heavy multigrain bread, organic cabbage, organic hard candies, a few organic animal crackers to represent animal sacrifice, fresh purified water

(Beef was a food for the wealthy in Anglo-Saxon society and loaves of bread were common, often with stew. The Romans brought wheat and cabbage to Britain centuries earlier. But it was the sheep’s milk yogurt that Eostre seemed to call for the most. I didn’t even know anyone made that, but when I mentioned it to my mother she said that she actually just found some. Fermented foods were very common in all cultures because they basically are the natural way to have probiotics. Sauerkraut, for example, helps digest heavy sausages. Fermented drinks made with diary were popular across all of Northern Europe until recently. Yogurt, if it’s real, will have cultures growing in it that balance the important intestinal bacteria. The most common non-meat sacrifice in the Vedic religion was clarified butter, ghee. As the proto-Indo-European people were pastoralists to whom cattle are wealth and that mindset continued into even the runes, a variety of dairy products are usually good offerings.)

Other biodegradable offerings: 3 amber beads (from 1970s necklace made with amber from Latvia, bought second hand from Latvian Etsy shop), 1 turquoise bead (from a friend; I do NOT endorse mining companies!), and a few glass or ceramic beads (recycled, made Fair Trade in India, or someone ‘s destash ie second hand)

Everything will be offered to the land. (Do not leave meat or dairy offerings in populated areas because they will attract animals most people consider pests that can be very disruptive. Someone will probably kill them.)

Heather Awen, out of the window
Out my window, rain and rising rivers

The snow has *just* melted here in northern Vermont. It rains, another river flood warning in effect. A couple weeks ago we saw robins. Mud season has been in full effect for a while and will continue.

Around 5:20am I start gathering Her food, singing Her name in what feels like an endless loop. I am not thinking anything. It feels good to be lost in movement and music. Myofascial Pain Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, herniated back discs and leg muscle – I don’t normally stand much.

The food and bead offerings are arranged with my Eostre shrine items: three eggs, a decade old, decorated by a neighbor and her children; the top of a ceramic bunny I’ve had since I was an infant, finally too broken to repair; found birch sticks and bark; feathers of pheasant from an amazing and beautiful autistic Roma poetess born in April; and the glass bead shrine I made Eostre. Starting with an original one of a kind rabbit pendant someone made and gave me, it has the colors from darkest night to sunrise, with a yellow songbird. By moving through them, I can remember the power of Eostre. (I make and sell customized bead shrines that are sturdy enough to take on your travels and hold in bed while sick. Prices are determined by the cost of materials; one with a donated earing as the pendant is going to cost much less than one with a $25 Taranus Wheel.)

Eostre Shrine close up, Heather Awen
Eostre Shrine close up, Heather Awen

Once everything is organized, I face east and say my Eostre Hymn. I can feel a friend of mine faraway standing next to me. I don’t know what he’s doing exactly but it adds a little necessary oomph with hand movements and heart energy.

Eostre Hymn

Arise and greet mighty Eostre, Goddess of Renewals, Maiden of Light and Life and Herald of Sunna’s Season!

The Fair, the Bright has come with her white offspring; now the dark winter returns to her dwelling. Akin, immortal, following each other, changing their colours both the heavens move onward.

Following the Wyrd laid before Them, alternately they travel. Fair-formed, of different hues and yet one-minded, Night and Dawn, Winter and Spring clash not, neither do they travel.

Eostre, harnessing her wagon with purple oxen, injuring none, returns with perpetual riches. Opening paths to happiness, the Goddess shines, praised by all, giver of every blessing.

With changing tints she gleams in double splendour while from the eastward she displays her body. She travels perfectly the path of Order, nor fails to reach, as one who knows, the quarters.

In the sky’s borders she has shone in splendour; now to our great joy the Goddess throwns off the veil of darkness. Awakening the world with purple horses, on her well-harnessed chariot Dawn approaches.

Bringing all life-sustaining blessings with her, showing herself she sends forth brilliant lustre. Breasts bare, Eostre fills our world with returning Life-giving light, and flowers are soon to follow.

It is Eostre who opens the portal to the birds, migrations ending, eggs laying, songs glorious as if to welcome the Mother of Sexuality, Fertility and Mortality. It is Eostre who opens the portal for Sunna to bring us warmth and well being.

Although we share only limited springs with you, Eostre, please think kindly of us. We offer food and gifts to the daughter of the Heavens; May You be pleased with our generosity, although Yours is so much greater.

From times prehistoric You have kept the cycles of the Sun moving in harmonic perfection. Today we remember all you offer, all you are, and where we fit in your turning seasons. Let us feel the change You bring and be healed, be whole, be wholesome.

May your light and fair blessings reach our collective and individual dungeons of despair, isolation, oppression and ignorance. Grant us all the creativity and will power to follow your path of freedom; let us be uplifted by your eternal chances to match the design of the Deities.

Please look down to us with eyes full of love and extend your glory deep into our bodies, strong, healthy, holy, blessed. Usher in the time of gentle rains, bright sun, and great growth. Bless our farmers and our eagerness for an honorable life.

May Eostre whose auspicious rays are seen resplendent round about, Grant us great riches, fair in form, of all good things, wealth which light labour may attain.

Life continues, cycles continue, each morning, each spring another chance to understand, to create, to design, to live in abundant joy with the Order of the Deities.

May They beckon to us the way of Xartus; May we gracefully embrace this holy union.

Thank you. I give to Eostre, I give to the goodness in myself, and I give to the love that still and always will exist within my species. Thank you, O Heavenly Mother.

At the end I pull a rune. I naturally use the Anglo-Saxon runes with the Northumbrian ones included. (I have removed the Cweard rune because no one knows what the word even means.)

I have to think about why I’m taking an omen. Am I asking if She’s pleased? The runes aren’t great for yes/no answers. She’s satisfied. I feel it. We’re good. So what’s the message from Eostre for which I need an omen? As it’s a seasonal festival, I ask for an omen about how the spring will be for me.

Rune of Spring, 2019, Heather Awen
Rune of Spring, 2019, Heather Awen

The answer is Wynn. Joy of having enough. Joy of a home, good health, prosperity and happiness. Troubles will be few. Gratitude will be important for my mental well being. Wish comes from the related “wunsch” and for the Goths “wunjo” (the rune’s Scandinavian name) meant “bliss.” The different meanings and the lines of the Rune Poem remind me of the power of oxytocin, the comfort, bonding hormone released during breast feeding, orgasms and grooming/ wanted, non-sexual touch. There’s a needed willingness to feel content in Wynn because my culture values struggling over satisfaction. Blame it on the intense mixture of Calvinist Christianity with capitalism, but happiness is scorned as laziness, and ghosts of Scottish Presbyterian and Dutch Reformist self-loathing is woven deeply in my recent family Wyrd.

I embrace joy.

 

Ancient Hymns to Usas

Here are some hymns to Usas directly copied from the e-book version The Complete Rig Veda (English), translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith, published by Classic Century Works. All… oddities are in the original.

HYMN XLVIII. Dawn.
1 DAWN on us with prosperity, O Usas, Daughter of the Sky, Dawn with great glory, Goddess, Lady of the Light, dawn thou with riches, Bounteous One.
2 They, bringing steeds and kine, boon-givers of all wealth, have oft sped forth to lighten us. O Usas, waken up for me the sounds of joy: send us the riches of the great.
3 Usas hath dawned, and now shall dawn, the Goddess, driver forth of cars Which, as she cometh nigh, have fixed their thought on her, like glory-seekers on the flood.
4 Here Kanva, chief of Kanva’s race, sings forth aloud the glories of the heroes’ names,— The. princes who, O Usas, as thou comest near, direct their thoughts to liberal gifts.
5 Like a good matron Usas comes carefully tending everything: Rousing all life she stirs all creatures that have feet, and makes the birds of air fly up.
6 She sends the busy forth, each man to his pursuit: delay she knows not as she springs. O rich in opulence, after thy dawning birds that have flown forth no longer rest.
7 This Dawn hath yoked her steeds afar, beyond the rising of the Sun: Borne on a hundred chariots she, auspicious Dawn, advances on her way to Men.
8 To meet her glance all living creatures bend them down: Excellent One, she makes the light. Usas, the Daughter of the Sky, the opulent, shines foes and enmities away.
9 Shine on us with thy radiant light, O Usas, Daughter of the Sky, Bringing to us great store of high felicity, and beaming on our solemn rites.
10 For in thee is each living creature’s breath and life, when, Excellent! thou dawnest forth. Borne on thy lofty car, O Lady of the Light, hear, thou of wondrous wealth, our call.
11 O Usas, win thyself the strength which among men is wonderful. Bring thou thereby the pious unto holy rites, those who as priests sing praise to thee.
12 Bring from the firmament, O Usas, all the Gods, that they may drink our Soma juice, And, being what thou art, vouchsafe us kine and steeds, strength meet for praise and hero might.
13 May Usas whose auspicious rays are seen resplendent round about, Grant us great riches, fair in form, of all good things, wealth which light labour may attain.
14 Mighty One, whom the rsis of old time invoked for their protection and their help, O Usas, graciously answer our songs of praise with bounty and with brilliant light.
15 Usas, as thou with light to day hast opened the twin doors of heaven, So grant thou us a dwelling wide and free from foes. O Goddess, give us food with kine.
16 Bring us to wealth abundant, sent in every shape, to plentiful refreshing food, To all-subduing splendour, Usas, Mighty One, to strength, thou rich in spoil and wealth.

HYMN XLIX. Dawn.
1 E’EN from above the sky’s bright realm come, Usas, by auspicious ways: Let red steeds bear thee to the house of him who pours the Soma, juice.
2 The chariot which thou mountest, fair of shape, O Usas light to move,— Therewith, O Daughter of the Sky, aid men of noble fame today.
3 Bright Usas, when thy times return, all quadrupeds and bipeds stir, And round about flock winged birds from all the boundaries of heaven.
4 Thou dawning with thy beams of light illumest all the radiant realm. Thee, as thou art, the Kanvas, fain for wealth, have called with sacred songs.

HYMN CXIII. Dawn.
1 This light is come, amid all lights the fairest; born is the brilliant, far-extending brightness. Night, sent away for Savitar’s uprising, hath yielded up a birth-place for the Morning.
2 The Fair, the Bright is come with her white offspring; to her the Dark One hath resigned her dwelling. Akin, immortal, following each other, changing their colours both the heavens move onward.
3 Common, unending is the Sisters’ pathway; taught by the Gods, alternately they travel. Fair-formed, of different hues and yet one-minded, Night and Dawn clash not, neither do they travel.
4 Bright leader of glad sounds, our eyes behold her; splendid in hue she hath unclosed the portals. She, stirring up the world, hath shown us riches: Dawn hath awakened every living creature.
5 Rich Dawn, she sets afoot the coiled-up sleeper, one for enjoyment, one for wealth or worship, Those who saw little for extended vision. All living creatures hath the Dawn awakened.
6 One to high sway, one to exalted glory, one to pursue his gain, and one his labour: All to regard their different vocations, all moving creatures hath the Dawn awakened.
7 We see her there, the Child of Heaven apparent, the young Maid, flushing in her shining raiment. Thou sovran Lady of all earthly treasure, flush on us here, auspicious Dawn, this morning.
8 She first of endless morns to come hereafter, follows the path of morns that have departed. Dawn, at her rising, urges forth the living him who is dead she wakes not from his slumber.
9 As thou, Dawn, hast caused Agni to be kindled, and with the Sun’s eye hast revealed creation. And hast awakened men to offer worship, thou hast performed, for Gods, a noble service.
10 How long a time, and they shall be together,—Dawns that have shone and Dawns to shine hereafter? She yearns for former Dawns with eager longing, and goes forth gladly shining with the others.
11 Gone are the men who in the days before us looked on the rising of the earlier Morning. We, we the living, now behold her brightness and they come nigh who shall hereafter see her.
12 Foe-chaser, born of Law, the Law’s protectress, joy-giver, waker of all pleasant voices, Auspicious, bringing food for Gods’ enjoyment, shine on us here, most bright, O Dawn, this morning.
13 From days eternal hath Dawn shone, the Goddess, and shows this light to-day, endowed with riches. So will she shine on days to come immortal she moves on in her own strength, undecaying.
14 In the sky’s borders hath she shone in splendour: the Goddess hath thrown off the veil of darkness. Awakening the world with purple horses, on her well-harnessed chariot Dawn approaches.
15 Bringing all life-sustaining blessings with her, showing herself she sends forth brilliant lustre. Last of the countless mornings that have vanished, first of bright morns to come hath Dawn arisen.
16 Arise! the breath, the life, again hath reached us: darkness hath passed away and light approacheth. She for the Sun hath left a path to travel we have arrived where men prolong existence.
17 Singing the praises of refulgent Mornings with his hymn’s web the priest, the poet rises. Shine then to-day, rich Maid, on him who lauds thee, shine down on us the gift of life and offspring.
18 Dawns giving sons all heroes, kine and horses, shining upon the man who brings oblations,— These let the Soma-presser gain when ending his glad songs louder than the voice of Vāyu.
19 Mother of Gods, Aditi’s form of glory, ensign of sacrifice, shine forth exalted. Rise up, bestowing praise on our devotion all-bounteous, make us chief among the people.
20 Whatever splendid wealth the Dawns bring with them to bless the man who offers praise and worship, Even that may Mitra, Varuna vouchsafe us, and Aditi and Sindhu, Earth and Heaven.

HYMN LXI. Usas.
1 O Usas, strong with strength, endowed witli knowledge, accept the singer’s praise, O wealthy Lady. Thou, Goddess, ancient, young, and full of wisdom, movest, all-bounteous! as the Law ordaineth.
2 Shine forth, O Morning, thou auspicious Goddess, on thy bright car awaking pleasant voices. Let docile horses of far-reaching splendour convey thee hitherward, the goldencoloured.
3 Thou, Morning, turning thee to every creature, standest on high as ensign of the Immortal, To one same goal ever and ever wending now, like a wheel, O newly-born, roll hi ther.
4 Letting her reins drop downward, Morning cometh, the wealthy Dame, the Lady of the dwelling; Bringing forth light, the Wonderful, the Blessed hath spread her from the bounds of earth and heaven.
5 Hither invoke the radiant Goddess Morning, and bring with reverence your hymn to praise her. She, dropping sweets, hath set in heaven her brightness, and, fair to look on, hath beamed forth her splendour.
6 From heaven, with hymns, the Holy One was wakened: brightly to both worlds came the wealthy Lady. To Morning, Agni, when she comes refulgent, thou goest forth soliciting fair riches.
7 On Law’s firm base the speeder of the Mornings, the Bull, hath entered mighty earth and heaven. Great is the power of Varuna and Mitra, which, bright, hath spread in every place its splendour.

HYMN LXXX. Dawn.
1 THE singers welcome with their hymns and praises the Goddess Dawn who bringeth in the sunlight, Sublime, by Law true to eternal Order, bright on her path, red-tinted, far-refulgent.
2 She comes in front, fair, rousing up the people, making the pathways easy to be travelled. High, on her lofty chariot, all-impelling, Dawn gives her splendour at the days’ beginning.
3 She, harnessing her car with purple oxen. injuring none, hath brought perpetual riches. Opening paths to happiness, the Goddess shines, praised by all, giver of every blessing.
4 With changing tints she gleams in double splendour while from the eastward she displays her body. She travels perfectly the path of Order, nor fails to reach, as one who knows, the quarters.
5 As conscious that her limbs are bright with bathing, she stands, as ’twere, erect that we may see her. Driving away malignity and darkness, Dawn, Child of Heaven, hath come to us with lustre.
6 The Daughter of the Sky, like some chaste woman, bends, opposite to men, her forehead downward. The Maid, disclosing boons to him who worships, hath brought again the daylight as aforetime.

HYMN LXIV. Dawn.
1. THE radiant Dawns have risen up for glory, in their white splendour like the waves of waters. She maketh paths all easy, fair to travel, and, rich, hath shown herself benign and friendly.
2 We see that thou art good: far shines thy lustre; thy beams, thy splendours have flown up to heaven. Decking thyself, thou makest bare thy bosom, shining in majesty, thou Goddess Morning.
3 Red are the kine and luminous that bear her the Blessed One who spreadeth through the distance. The foes she chaseth like a valiant archer, like a swift warrior she repelleth darkness.
4 Thy ways are easy on the hills: thou passest Invincible! Se1f-luminous! through waters. So lofty Goddess with thine ample pathway, Daughter of Heaven, bring wealth to give us comfort.
5 Dawn, bring me wealth: untroubled, with thine oxen thou bearest riches at thy will and pleasure; Thou who, a Goddess, Child of Heaven, hast shown thee lovely through bounty when we called thee early.
6 As the birds fly forth from their resting places, so men with store of food rise at thy dawning. Yea, to the liberal mortal who rernaineth at home, O Goddess Dawn, much good thou bringest.
Bibliography

Albertsson, Alaric, Travels Through Middle Earth: the Path of a Saxon Pagan. Llewellyn Publications (2009)

Albertsson, Alaric, Wyrdworking: The Path of a Saxon Sorcerer. Llewellyn Publications (2011)

Bloomfield, Maurice, The Religion of the Veda. (1907)

Hondius-Crone, Ada, The Temple of Nehalennia at Domburg, J.M. Meulenhoff, Amsterdam (1955), summarized by Maria Kvilhaug (Unknown where published)

Noyer, Rolf, PIE Dieties and the Sacred Proto-Indo-European Language and Society. (Unknown where published)

Paxson, Diana L., Taking Up the Runes: A Complete Guide to Using Runes in Spells, Rituals, Divination, and Magic. Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC (2005)

Reaves, William P., The Aesir and the Elves (Unknown where published, 2002)

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

Trubshaw, Bob, Continuity of Worldviews in Anglo-Saxon England. (Heart of Albion Productions) FREE DOWNLOAD https://hoap.co.uk/catalogue.htm#aswv

Trubshaw, Bob, Souls, Spirits and Deities: Continuity from paganism in early Christianity. (Heart of Albion Productions) FREE DOWNLOAD https://hoap.co.uk/catalogue.htm#aswv

Vavrovský, Stanislav, Aspects of Indo-European Religion: The Supernatural World of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. (Unknown where published)

Wodening, Swain, A Handbook on Germanic Heathenry and Theodish Belief, self published (2007)

Zimmer, Stefan, The Culture of the Speakers of Proto-IndoEuropean, Bereitgestellt von | De Gruyter / TCS Angemeldet Heruntergeladen am | 04.12.17 13:28

Zimmer, Stefan, Three Indo-European Moral Values, Studien zur historisch-vergleichenden Sprachwissenschaft Herausgegeben von Harald Bichlmeier und Velizar Sadovski (2017)

Celtic Festival Calender: Neto, Lenus, Cocidius, Rudianos and Nemetona

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Sketch of statue of Lenus Mars by Heather Awen

As the Celts conquered by the Romans adapted their religion to that of the Empire’s, I imagine that Celtic deities associated with Roman ones would be celebrated on the days of their Roman counterparts. I’ve already discussed Telesphorus and the Matres, and more will explored in upcoming posts already scheduled. Even if no Celts did this (which is hard to believe) at least it gives those who worship the ancient deities of the Celtic tribes ritual dates with which to work.

March originally was the first month of the Roman year, in honor of the God of war Mars, the protector of Rome. His Priests were the Salii or “leapers,” twenty four young patrician men whose parents were living. The Salii led processions throughout Rome, wearing archaic military armor, carrying a copy of a shield that was said to have fallen from the sky. On March 1st (probably the new moon originally) the Salii would beat their shields and sing hymns to Mars Gradivus about fertility, while performing a leaping dance. The dance was probably meant to scare off evil spirits during this liminal time of beginnings. Some believe that the dance was to show the crops how high to grow.

Mars was associated with several Celtic deities, including ones associated with Mercury in other places. This is common, because many Celtic people chose which Roman God fit with their own, as opposed to the Romans deciding. Roman deities usually had a special “function” or aspect of life they ruled, while Celtic deities were more about the welfare of the tribe and served in whatever way was needed. Making a direct correlation between the two pantheons is rarely easy, but within a few generations, both Celts and Romans probably began to understand these Romano-Celtic deities in a new way.

The protector of the tribe fit well into Celtic thinking about the deities. Lenus of the Belgic tribe Treveri became Lenus Mars and a very large and important temple complex was built in Trier. Being on a river, it was considered a healing sanctuary where pilgrims could sleep and pray for a message from the God. Many other deities were also worshiped there, and theater taught the myths and values of Rome. (See this post to learn more about the Treveri, Lenus and photographs of Trier including a Roman bridge and bath.)

Another God associated with Mars is described in Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners:

Rudianos is a Gaulish warrior God who became associated with Mars. His name means the color red, which is typically connected to battle. A stone from the 6th century BCE at Saint-Michelde-Valbonne, a place where Rudianos was later worshipped, depicts a warrior God on horseback. The Celtic cult of the head is shown by the God’s giant head and the five severed heads being trampled under his horse. Rudianos also has inscriptions at Saint-Andéol-en-Quint and Rochefort Samson (Drôme).”

For British Celtic Pagans, Cocidius (koh-KEED-ee-us) was worshiped in England. However, it’s important to remember that these temples were for the deities that Gauls in the Roman military honored and probably not native to the Britons. (Native shrines left no writing.) Steel Bars, Sacred Waters tells us more:

“A God of soldiers, Cocidius was popular at the dangerous Roman frontier in northern England, Hadrian’s Wall. His major center of worship was Fanum Cocidii (the Temple of Cocidius) located near the Solway Estuary. He was associated with Roman war God Mars.

“23 stone altars and 2 silver plaques have been discovered dedicated to Cocidius. Most are military altars. The plaques show him with a spear and shield and wearing a short cape. A carving depicts him with arms opened wide, a sword in the right hand, and a shield in the left, with his feet stable on the ground. Some believe his statues were painted red. He is called sanctus (holy) six times. One inscription is to Cocidius Vernostonus (”Cocidius of the alder tree”). Many images are of him hunting the traditional Celtic animals of boars, hares and stags found in later legends.”

The alder tree, which makes a red color, is later associated with the Brythonic crow king God Bran the Blessed who we know mostly from the Mabinogi. Roman artisans usually depicted Celtic Gods with a spear and shield, based on their knowledge of what Celtic warriors and kings wore, and their simplistic view of Celtic deities.

From Steel Bars, Sacred Waters:

Invocation to Cocidius by Heather Awen

“Friend of soldiers, red of alder,
Hunting the boar and defending the land,
Cocidius, welcome to you,
Crimson warrior!
Holder of spear, your temple
Where salt water meets fresh,
Cocidius, companion in battle,
I call to you, to you, holy God, I call.”

Prayer to Cocidius for Safety by Heather Awen

“Red warrior, friend of those in battle,
Cocidius, I speak to you,
Guardian to guardian.
In this fight, please keep my back,
Please make sure I get out of here alive and unscathed.
Whatever battles rage around or within me,
Guard me with your wisdom and loyalty.
Fight the fights I cannot
For my freedom, for my safety, for my humanity.
Wisely lead me through every battle I cannot prevent,
Guide my movements, my decisions,
And keep me out of trouble.
Thank you, defender, for with you on my side
I promise to not start the trouble, *
Only to leave it.
*You actually have to keep your vow.”

I have a great fondness for the Iberian Celtic deities, perhaps because modern scholars are revealing the huge importance of the Atlantic coast in the creation of the Celtic languages. New evidence suggests that Iberia actually had more Celtic settlements than France or the insular Celts living in Britain and Ireland. To see 6th century BCE Celtic language written in Phoenician script found in the most southwest region of Portugal visually fills in once missing gaps of history.

The deities of these Iberian Celtic tribes are discussed in recent academic journals but rarely mentioned in pop culture Celtic Paganism books. In writing Steel Bars, Sacred Waters I worked hard to make these once well known deities well known again. They deserve the same devotion as other deities.

Associated with Mars is Neto, pronounced “NET-oh” and “NAY-toe.” From Steel Bars, Sacred Waters:

“In his Saturnalia writing Macrobius says Neto is like Mars and Apollo, the Roman God of war and the Greek/Roman God of the Sun. His name, like that of so many Celtic Gods, may be connected to passion. He is generally accepted to be a warrior God. However, Celtic war Gods tend to be defenders of tribes, which includes defending them from illness. Apollo is also a God of healing, which makes the connection to protecting the tribe’s health as much as their homes and livestock even stronger. Neto, like so many Celtic Gods of passion, is probably an all-round guardian.

Invocation to Neto by Heather Awen

“Hail, Neto! A warrior of blood and light,
You fight with passion, champion of most terrifying tribes.
Leading the way, you guard against every possible attack
On livelihood and lives, on cattle and castros*.
The heat of the sun boils every edge of you,
Purifying your troops of all hidden treachery,
For you are the honorable warrior,
Guided by great desire to protect what is innocent and must not be corrupted.
I honor you, Neto, guardian who keeps the people free,
I honor you.
* A castro is an Iberian hill-fort.”

Research suggests that the Celts in general believed that for a God to have power, He must be paired with a Goddess. One example is Mercury and Rosmerta (discussed in a few months on the Merculia). Another is how Jupiter is almost always seated by Juno Regina, Juno in her aspect as Queen, on Gaulish Jupiter columns. (This will be discussed more in the August post about the September 1st Festival of Taranus.) And another is Mars and Nemetona, “Goddess of the Sacred Grove” pronounced “nem-eh-TONE-ah.”

Nemetona was paired with the Roman God Mars by the Gauls. This is one way Gallo-Roman religion differed from Roman religion: Gods needed to be in couples with Goddesses. She was also worshiped at Bath in Britain. There an image depicts her seated holding a scepter by a ram and three little hooded figures. Those hooded figures are called genii, and considered to be land spirits.

“It is difficult to know exactly how wide her worship spread. Many place names in Gaul may be connected directly to the Goddess – or to the groves where Druids led some rituals and taught, called nemetons. (The leaders of the Galatians in Turkey gathered at Drunemeton.) This word is perhaps 4,000 years old. Nemetona may have been considered the Goddess of all sacred groves, or just the ones near Bath. Two tribes are recorded whose names come from nemeton – the Nemetati, a Celtic tribe in Iberia, and the Germanic tribe of Nemetes living by the River Rhine, not far from where Mars and Nemetona were most popular. The northern and Atlantic regions of Iberia where Celtic tribes settled were not warm Mediterranean climates, but temperate regions with forests. In continental Europe the sacred grove was normally oak trees.

“Some modern Druids visualize a sacred grove or nemeton within themselves. After grounding and centering they will journey in their minds to their own private nemeton. There they can focus on the sacred center within and retreat from the busy world.”

In a paper by Hyllested, exciting new linguistic evidence shows a change in Indo-European language probably in the Czech Republic about 4,000 years that directly impacted the religion of both the Celts and Germans – before their own languages existed! The name of Macha‘s husband Nemed (and Macha Herself) is believed to come from this time. Nemed is God of the nemeton, the sacred grove with the sacred mare (Macha) which are crucial aspects of both early Germanic and Celtic ritual. That a German tribe in Belgae and Celtic tribe in Iberia also come from nemeton adds to the idea that nematon is a Celto-Germanic word. Hyllested doesn’t mention Nemetona, but that Her name is directly from nemeton, a Celto-Germanic word, would suggest She is an ancient Goddess.

To learn more about the other ancient words that directly impact Celtic and Germanic religion, buy Steel Bars, Sacred Waters, offered for a less expensive price here than on Amazon, and support sending copies to prisons!

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, The Ancient Celts. Oxford University Press (1997)

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

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

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)

Jones, Prudence & Pennick, Nigel, A History of Pagan Europe. Routledge (1995)

Nicholson, Francine, Religious Ritual among the Celts, Land, Sea and Sky, http://homepage.eircom.net/~shae/chapter13.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)

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)

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

Woodard, Roger D., Indo-European sacred space: Vedic and Roman cult. University of Illinois Press (2006)