Celtic Festival of Herakles, Ogmios, Ogma

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

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

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

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

Ogmios

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ogma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Invocation to Ogma by Heather Awen

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

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

 

Next Post: A historic overview of the Ogham!

Bibliography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

Celtic Festival of Andraste, Andate, Andarta & Brigantia (Brythonic)

BrigitteCelt
Brigantia, Museum of Brittany

This is part of an ongoing series of posts about Celtic deities Who have been associated with Roman deities. It used to be thought that the Romans forced their choice of Roman deity on the Celtic speaking tribes. Today it’s considered more likely that the Celtic natives often chose which native deity best matched their understanding of Roman ones, as many Celtic deities are associated with more than one Roman deity. The Roman pantheon, so neatly organized by function in the 1st century CE, just doesn’t match the Sovereignty Goddess and tribal chieftain God most common in Celtic cultures.

Perhaps if the Celtic peoples choose which Roman deities were similar to their native ones, they also used the Roman calendar for religious purposes. At the very least, the Empire’s calendar gives the Celtic polytheist (especially those who honor Gaulish and to a lesser extent Brythonic and Iberian Celtic deities) a year of organized festival days. It also allows me to get the word out about amazing, once-famous deities like Telesphorus, Neto, Erecura, Lenus, Sulis, the Matres, Lug, and, coming up, Sirona, Taranus, Abnoba and many others. Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners has a strong focus on ALL the Celtic speaking peoples’ and their deities, histories and known ritual activities. Knowing that people in prison can barely afford shampoo and paper, I wanted this giant book to cover everything known about Celtic Paganism so they wouldn’t have a reading list that they couldn’t afford. (And it is gigantic. I feared that it would be refused by prisons on the grounds that it was a blunt object. Not only is it 8×11″ and over 550 pages, we used every bit of white space for articles and art and eliminated the waste of blank pages where we could.)

Friends have said that it shouldn’t have been so obviously marketed to the 1 in 1000 Americans who are incarcerated Pagans because it is the only book about Gaulish, Brythonic and the new wealth of Celtic deities in Iberia (the possible home of the Celtic languages and known home to more Celtic settlements than the rest of the Western European Celtic world). After all, it’s the book which they’ve been “waiting all their lives” to read. (No pressure there!) Many, disappointed that there were no books on Celtic polytheism aside from Gaelic (and the Gaels are definitely covered in Steel Bars, Sacred Waters), ended up Heathens because of the large amount of Heathenry 101 books. (Also there’s a very old, pre-Celtic even, linguistic, cultural and religious connection between the two linguistic groups that continued into the Viking Age.) Celtic Reconstructionist Pagan “homework” is nowhere near as simple as that for Heathenry (the Eddas). The sources for accurate Celtic information are usually found in peer-reviewed journals published almost daily. Important bits are hidden in linguistics, archeology, biased Roman and Greek history, writing by Irish monks determined to make the ogham Biblical and other disparate sources. If you wondered how the Celtic speaking peoples depicted their deities before the Roman influence, what the deal is with all these boars, and why is this mysterious “Old North” of the Britons, Gaels, Angles and Picts that no one explains so important, this is your book. If you wanted rituals based on historical evidence that you can just start practicing, Gullveig Press has you covered.

Why? Because this is the book I wished someone had written instead of just websites complaining about the books with completely inaccurate information. Please, if you research and practice polytheism, consider having both print versions of your writing available for sale to those without Internet access (preferably at a discount for prisoners) and an e-book or pdf for those with ink intolerance, like me. (Our books are available for those with MCS ink intolerance.) I want to read them! (Anything anywhere on Kemetic Reconstruction? Non-fascist, academically researched Baltic Reconstructed Paganism? A respectful collection of Sumerian mythology, the basis for many myths in the Christian Bible’s Old Testament? Reading online really hurts my eyes but I can copy website information, especially if it’s well organized. Contact me!)

No profit is made by Gullveig Press – all money from sales to awesome, intelligent (and might I add quite attractive?) people like you covers the printer’s cost and postage to send free copies directly to inmates or books-to -prisoners organizations. Amazon takes a big chunk of those profits, so please consider buying your jam-packed, incredibly heavy copy directly from here. It’s even less expensive!

Enough plugging of the book and our love for these deities and consistent work supporting Pagans in prison! On with the post!

Victoria

On July 17th the Romans made sacrifice to the Goddess of Victory, Victoria. The native British Goddess Brigantia was associated with Victoria sometimes. However, She’s been covered in this post. (Still, feel free to honor Her today. As the Goddess of the most powerful tribe in Britain, She is used to all the lovin’ you can give! How She probably was brought to Leincester by tribes already exposed to Christianity in Briton and became, partially for political reasons, Ireland’s first home grown Saint, Brigid, read here.)

Andraste and Andate

This leaves us with the formidable Goddess Andraste (“indestructible”?) Who may be the same Goddess as Andate, a name meaning “victory.” Andate may be associated (at least linguistically) with the Gaulish Goddess Andarta Whose name means “well-fixed, staying firm” and was worshipped in Southern France and Bern, Switzerland. 

boudicca-engraved-vintage-illustration-queen-boudicea-victorian-book-dated-no-longer-copyright-41960046_kindlephoto-1647170015
Boudicca on her chariot

Boudicca/ Boudica

The information we have about Andraste and Andate

comes from Roman writing about the rebellion of Britons led by Queen Boudicca of the Iceni. Although the Roman historian Tacitus spelled her name as Boudicca, it may have been Boudica, which means “victory.” Among many other things, Tacitus wrote about events in Britain. His father-in-law served the Roman military during Boudicca’s rebellion, so Tacitus probably recorded much of the older man’s memories of battle.

Historian Cassius Dio is our other source of information and he, too, obviously was biased against the Britons. After all, the Romans were at war with the Britons at this time (60 or 61 CE) and like all writers of war, he had to demonize the enemy as “the Other” and probably made up the detailed torture described. (Tacitus never mentioned it.) However, the rebellion was incredibly violent and both sides used torture. Boudicca’s forces did burn down three important Roman cities and massacred around 70,000 Romans and pro-Roman Britons. Red charred debris can still be found 2,000 years later in London, at that time the Roman merchant center Londinium.

It’s speculated that the Southeastern British tribes’ rebellion was meant to be coordinated with that of one led by the Druids from their island of Mona (modern Anglesey) on the other side of Britain. The Roman military was actually slaughtering the Druids when Boudicca led her forces to war. Another tribe who joined in the rebellion was the Trinovantes, whose capitol was taken by the Romans and turned into Camulodunum (modern Colchester). Roman historian Tacitus wrote in The Annals: 

“(T)hese new (Roman) settlers in the colony of Camulodunum drove (the Trinovantes) out of their houses, ejected them from their farms, called them captives and slaves ….”

Cassius Dio wrote of the rebellion more than a century after it happened. He has Boudicca speak of history she would not have known for the benefit of his Roman readers. Obviously no one had no electronic recording devices so what she actually said is unknown.

For the Celtic Polytheist

What is particularly interesting for the Celtic polytheist is that: Queen Boudicca speaks directly to Andraste possibly because nobles also had a Priestly function or because Britons prayed to their deities without the Priest middlemen (as noted with Sulis); Boudicca uses a popular form of divination in the ancient world that continued in Scotland until a couple hundred years ago: looking at the movement of animals; female Britons were not only fierce warriors (which we’ve read about the Gauls and some Celtic tribes in Iberia) but were also military commanders; and the Britons held feasts and made sacrifices for deities like in other Celtic cultures.

This is even more helpful for the Brythonic polytheist. During the time when Britain was part of the Roman Empire, Gaulish and other Celtic soldiers in the Imperial military brought their native deities. Most Celtic deities whose names have been recovered in Britain were from the temples and inscriptions made by these foreigners. The groves of native deities do not have stone inscriptions, so Their names are lost to us. Although there was trade between the Britons and Gauls, most of the known deities worshipped in both Britain and Gaul probably were originally Gaulish. In Andate and Andraste we have definite names of native Brythonic Goddesses. Based on the evidence at the sanctuary of Sulis and records by Tacitus and Cassius Dio, we know that prayer was part of ancient religious practice. To honor Andate a feast and the making of offerings in a grove is suggested.

Sometimes I wonder about worshiping a deity of victory Who failed to deliver, and then I remember our deities are not all-knowing, all-powerful or all-loving. They have greater knowledge and power than I do and a divine ability to love which transcends “reason.” Andate and Andraste did provide victory to these people most of the time or They would not have been worshipped. We face so many battles against diseases, lookism, racism, misogyny, transphobia, heterosexualism, ableism, faithism, ageism, depression, anxiety, poverty, trauma, hubris, self doubt, violence in the home and streets, echoes from shame-based religions, pollution, self-harming relationship patterns, isolation, the 6th huge planetary extinction, nuclear weapons, fracking, family discord and so much else – surely Andate and Andraste have much to offer if we only return to Their worship.

No deity has ever given human followers everything they wanted or needed. Ever. The forces in motion (Wyrd) may prevent Them from helping, we do not at this time know what we really need, some plan is already in place, astrological transits fight our will, the laws of nature won’t allow our wishes to come true, our prayers interfere with the best course for certain others, possibly we broke an oath to a deity, or some other reason we may not  currently understand means we all have to “lose” sometimes. But the deities provide much including comfort, so we honor Them and celebrate the miracles happening every day.

Thank you, Andate and Andraste!

Some Source Material

It’s important to read some source material so you at least understand what modern polytheist writers have to work with. You can also check that the writer knows what they are writing about. It is possible to understand some information in different ways because we all have our own interests and beliefs. Below is part of Thayer’s translation of Cassius Dio:

“(T)he person who was chiefly instrumental in rousing the natives and persuading them to fight the Romans, the person who was thought worthy to be their leader and who directed the conduct of the entire war, was Buduica, a Briton woman of the royal family and possessed of greater intelligence than often belongs to women. This woman assembled her army, to the number of some 120,000, and then ascended a tribunal which had been constructed of earth in the Roman fashion. In stature she was very tall, in appearance most terrifying, in the glance of her eye most fierce, and her voice was harsh: a great mass of the tawniest hair fell to her hips; around her neck was a large golden necklace; and she wore a tunic of divers colours over which a thick mantle was fastened with a brooch. This was her invariable attire. She now grasped a spear to aid her in terrifying all beholders and spoke as follows:

” “You have learned by actual experience how different freedom is from slavery. Hence, although some among you may previously, through ignorance of which was better, have been deceived by the alluring promises of the Romans, yet now that you have tried both, you have learned how great a mistake you made in preferring an imported despotism to your ancestral mode of life, and you have come to realize how much better is poverty with no master than wealth with slavery…. Why is it that, though none of us has any money (how, indeed, could we, or where would we get it?), we are stripped and despoiled like a murderer’s victims?…

” “However, even at this late day, though we have not done so before, let us, my countrymen and friends and kinsmen, — for I consider you all kinsmen, seeing that you inhabit a single island and are called by one common name, — let us, I say, do our duty while we still remember what freedom is, that we may leave to our children not only its appellation but also its reality. For, if we utterly forget the happy state in which we were born and bred, what, pray, will they do, reared in bondage?”

“When she had finished speaking, she employed a species of divination, letting a hare escape from the fold of her dress; and since it ran on what they considered the auspicious side, the whole multitude shouted with pleasure, and Buduica, raising her hand toward heaven, said: “I thank thee, Andraste, and call upon thee as woman speaking to woman; for I rule over no burden-bearing Egyptians as did Nitocris, nor over trafficking Assyrians as did Semiramis (for we have by now gained thus much learning from the Romans!), much less over the Romans themselves as did Messalina once and afterwards Agrippina and now Nero (who, though in name a man, is in fact a woman, as is proved by his singing, lyre-playing and beautification of his person); nay, those over whom I rule are Britons, men that know not how to till the soil or ply a trade, but are thoroughly versed in the art of war and hold all things in common, even children and wives, so that the latter possess the same valour as the men. As the queen, then, of such men and of such women, I supplicate and pray thee for victory, preservation of life, and liberty against men insolent, unjust, insatiable, impious, — if, indeed, we ought to term those people men who bathe in warm water, eat artificial dainties, drink unmixed wine, anoint themselves with myrrh, sleep on soft couches with boys for bedfellows, — boys past their prime at that, — and are slaves to a lyre-player and a poor one too. Therefore may this Mistress Domitia-Nero reign no longer over me or over you men; let the wench sing and lord it over Romans, for they surely deserve to be the slaves of such a woman after having submitted to her so long. But for us, Mistress, be thou alone ever our leader.”

“Those who were taken captive by the Britons were subjected to every known form of outrage. The worst and most bestial atrocity committed by their captors was the following. They hung up naked the noblest and most distinguished women and then cut off their breasts and sewed them to their mouths, in order to make the victims appear to be eating them; afterwards they impaled the women on sharp skewers run lengthwise through the entire body. All this they did to the accompaniment of sacrifices, banquets, and wanton behaviour, not only in all their other sacred places, but particularly in the grove of Andate. This was their name for Victory, and they regarded her with most exceptional reverence.”

 

Bibliography

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

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

MacKillop, James, Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, Oxford University Press (1998)

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

Prósper, Blanca María, “The Venetic Inscription from Monte Manicola and Three termini publici from Padua: A Reappraisal”, Journal of Indo-European Studies 46, Number 1 & 2, Spring/Summer (2018)

Tacitus, The Annals, 14.31

Thayer, Bill translation, Cassius Dio, http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/62*.html (retrieved July 16, 2019)

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

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 Calendar: Ataegina & Erecura

Wolfgang Sauber, Isis-Persephone
Isis-Persephone at Archaeological Museum in Herakleion. Photograph by Wolfgang Sauber.

The idea that Romans consciously changed Celtic religion is losing popularity. (Aside from the slaughter of the powerful political Druid elite, of course.) Instead it’s being replaced with the more flexible premise that conquered indigenous peoples often chose how their religions fit into Rome’s:

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

My guess is that the Roman religious calender was used by Celts for festivals and rites about their own related deities. Even if they didn’t, doing so makes it easier for me to organize worship as I honor a very large pantheon. When a Celtic deity worshipped by Celts living in the Roman Empire neatly fits into the Roman religious calender, I include them. The incredibly popular Telesphorus was my first attempt, followed by Lenus, Neto, Nemotona, Rudianos, Cocidius, Sulis Minvera, and the Matres and Modron. Mercury/ Lug,  Taranus, and others are ready for their Festivals.

The Roman calender​ marks April 12-19 as the Cerialia, although it probably was originally held on the full moon of April (the 19th this year). During the Cerialia people celebrated the reunion of the grain Goddess Ceres and Her daughter Proserpina. (Persephone is Her Greek name.) Ceres comes from the word meaning “to grow” and during April the crops would have begun to fill the fields.

“Ceres delights in peace; and you farmer, pray for perpetual peace and a peaceful leader. You may give the goddess Ceres some spelt, and the compliment of spurting salt and grains of incense on old hearths; and if there is no incense kindle resin torches. Good Ceres is content with little, if that little be but pure.” (Ovid Fasti 4.395–415 LCL)

No one wore dark colors in April. Spring’s return was celebrated with offerings of milk, honey and wine given to Ceres. In ceremony, women in white carried lit torches, searching, like Ceres, for Proserpina. This was a festival of the common people, especially in the countryside, whose livelihoods depended on good harvests.

Two Celtic Goddesses stand out to me at this time. Both were associated with the Roman Proserpina: the Gaulish Erecura and the Iberian Ataegina. As Erecura is mentioned in the Steel Bars, Sacred Waters‘ three day rite of Trinoxtion Samoni written by Viducus Brigantici filius, bringing Her back in spring seems natural. As Aetagina‘s name means “rebirth” worshipping Her in spring also feels natural. I have strong, deep loving feelings for them both.

Below is information about these Goddesses, including my personal experiences with Them, and then ritual ideas. My own relationships with Them isn’t to tell you what you should feel. It’s not even UPG (unverified personal gnosis); it’s my experience. That makes it verified for me by me only. It’s not part of the religion, just my religion. I think it’s important that we acknowledge the mystical, private communion with forces greater than us. As wonderful as the Enlightenment was in many ways, it did swing the pendulum too far away from the embodied union with the ensouled planet and all Her spirits. Because of this, too many people are afraid to “admit” to having a moving religious experience in ANY religion.

Polytheism isn’t big on orthodoxy – what you believe and feel is accurate for you. It’ll possibly change, too. Polytheism is big on orthopraxy, however, which means researching the ways to do things correctly (and then doing them). It’s what makes a Celtic ceremony different from a Hopi ceremony. Celtic Paganism is performed in ways that are common to Celtic culture. Now, that’s a huge time and space, but some things are “pan-Celtic” and others are specific to a region during a certain period – and Indo-European cultures overlap a lot, especially when they’re neighbors. Luckily, Steel Bars, Sacred Waters provides that ritual and cultural information with which you can explore. Far more is known about Celtic polytheism than even most Pagans believe.

Erecura

From Steel Bars, Sacred Waters, written by me: “Erecura, Aerecura, Herecura, Pronounced: “Air-eh-cur-ah”

“(Eracura’s) images are mainly located around the Danube River in Southern Germany and Slovenia, but are also found in Switzerland, Italy, Britain and France. Her name is inscribed many times along the Rhine River. Erecura often appears in statues with the Underworld God Dis Pater. (Once she was depicted as a companion of Ogmios.) She’s also mentioned in several magical texts from Austria.

“Monuments dedicated to her have been found in ancient cemeteries. Although connected to the Underworld, Erecura also holds baskets of apples and the cornucopia. Considered an earth Goddess of fertility, in two statues she sits wearing a full robe bearing trays of fruit. “On a monument from Salzbach, Dispater is accompanied by a goddess called Aeracura, holding a basket of fruit, and on another monument from Ober-Seebach, the companion of Dispater holds a cornucopia. In the latter instance Dispater holds a hammer and cup, and the goddess may be Aeracura. She may thus represent the old Earth-goddess,” according to J.A. MacCulloch in “The Religion of the Celts.”

“There may be a connection between Dis Pater and Erecura and the couple Sucellus and Nantosuelta.”

I envision Erecura as a short (for our times, not Her’s) woman around age 30 (when that was at least half your life lived), with long dark curly hair in a burgundy dress with gold on her shoes. Purple and gold or bronze come through very strongly. Her face is rounded with a small mouth and chin.

My one meaningful experience of Her was when praying for polytheists, especially Celtic, to be kinder and get along. The war between two popular angry bloggers was disrupting other discussions we all could have been having. Debate (clear win/ lose) mattered more than dialogue. I was deep in trance and felt deep in soil, far below in the roots. My question to Erecura was to understand this need for cliques and separation. The Celtic polytheism scene isn’t that big – there’s about six groups, not including those within ADF – and bad blood flows between many of them.

She said, “Yours is a very young religion and everyone is terrified that their research may be swept away by others who are not able to research and rely on poor publishers.” I cringed, remembering the time I read that Olwen was a sun Goddess, and seeing books on Celtic shamanism. Anything with “Celtic” thrown in front of it sold, from Robert Grave’s modern ogham calendar to Celtic Wicca.

“All of you care so much, so passionately about your deities, you guard any actual facts with your lives and are vigilant in tearing down scholars who have been disproven.” I know that a lot of books on which some Celtic polytheists base their research are partly obsolete now. That includes much of my own early reading list. There’s so much new information as physical material is reviewed with fresh eyes, linguistics brings us more information about our deities, and outdated assumptions about Roman control over religion are tossed away, in favor for ones that fit what we know today.

Erecura said, “You’re all determined to make sure that the core truths and spectacular details you discover are staked like young plants. You’re all trying to keep the weeds of greed from selling lies, standing in watch, ready to tear down anything that will block the light of the unromantic and unrealistic realities so many crave instead of the truth. It’s good. Things are growing. The garden finally has some reasonable entryways for those young to the religions/ cultures. Of course it has to be different in different places, because it always was just the oldest religion: place and people. Change the place and how people connect with it and each other, and it changes. Just like it always did, does, will.”

I don’t feel Erecura very strongly as a spring Goddess, but more as an agricultural earth Goddess: “the tomb, the womb” cliche of eternal renewal. She’s the criss-cross between the world of Ancestors dead and here, world of Ancestors living, to the point where they blur. Which “side” is dead, who is alive? She’s so deeply rooted, Erecura is in each realm, and they blend and merge in the sheer ancient powers She holds. If we honor Her at the season of death, She needs Her place in the growing spring.

Ataegina

From Steel Bars, Sacred Waters, written by me: “Ataegina, Ataecina, Pronounced: “ah-TIE-gee-nah”

“A popular Goddess whose name probably means “reborn,” she is associated with the Roman Goddess Proserpina (Greek Persephone). She seems to be a Goddess of springtime. Ataegina had sanctuaries in Spain and Portugal. The goat was her sacred animal and could be on your shrine to honor her.

Invocation to Ataegina by Heather Awen

Hail, Ataegina!
During winter we weep for missing you;
In the spring we rejoice.
With you returns the flowers, the nectar and honey,
The sweetness of life.
Come autumn you retreat below,
Like the falling leaves and roots growing plump.
In the Underworld you give the dead your blessings;
Above, it is us you bless.
Beautiful young Goddess,
You hold the family, those living and
Those passed over,
Together in your giant heart.

Prayer to Ataegina for Rebirth by Heather Awen

Beautiful Ataegina, the one who releases spring, the one who spring releases,
Greetings Goddess as I inhale
Something new in my lungs
Something new in my blood.
I know there is more to you than flowers
And under that maiden’s face
I know there’s the skull of death,
Which makes me move to you even closer.
For what I need, you see, dear Goddess,
Is a new identity, a new self in my life,
Because this one keeps leading me to dead ends,
Leading me to death.
If I am meant to let my old self die, let it be so I can better live this life.
So please, take my life and reanimate it,
Take my spirit and give it new spark,
Let me step out of this tainted persona, and
Into one authentic and close to your heart.”

I LOVE Ataegina. I can’t tell you anything about Her other than She is Life giving us a second, third, 53rd chance. I think She wears white linen, embroidered edges, dark cloak, and has straight or wavy light brown hair. She’s innocent, fun laughter; she’s the small forest flowers that fall from her nimble young body like a blurry aura trail of new growth dropping behind Her. Yet, always the haunt of a skeleton is in Her arsenal of jokes and surprises. Like how one day Her giggling, playful face finally turns to greet you in the sun-dappled wooded bliss you found following Her, and then your heart stops. You’re dead and it’s abrupt but not frightening. The last sight seen with living eyes was Her smile.

I’m quite willing to give myself over to Her hands and there’s not many deities with whom I feel that unconditionally comfortable and safe. She’s pure love whether She’s ruling the Realm of the Dead, or skipping through barren land tossing seeds that hit the ground already in green growth. I feel that Ataegina might have played a deep transformative role in Her devotees’ lives. Because She always makes me light hearted or at peace when my body grabs a new diagnosis or throws out a new scary symptom, I would say that She probably had healing sanctuaries.The Romans really liked turning any temple on a river into a healing dream incubation spa, so maybe that became a later regional part of Her cultus. However, I see Her healing as the abundance of real food shared among a community. As Multiple Chemical Sensitivity/ Chemical Intolerance requires truly fresh air, really clean water and very pure food and wholesome fabric, I think She’s understanding of anyone who feels like they’re dying from toxins and sensory overload, like chronic fatigue syndrome or after chemotherapy.

The Ritual

Reading the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone and their ancient Mystery Tradition for a happy Afterlife should be required, because it’s quite possible that the Celts themselves chose Proserpina as the Roman Goddess most like Ataegina and Erecura. Odds are that eastern Gauls participated in the Greek Mystery Tradition. Some Celts in the Roman Empire almost certainly must have. It would be odd if they hadn’t.

Southern Gauls chose to add Apollo and Hermes to their pantheon. I often wonder if having already known Hermes, the Gauls gave Mercury more importance than the Romans because they understood Mercury to be the powerful magician’s God Hermes. In Eastern Europe the curving and winding La Tene abstract art style developed unique animal designs based on Greek influences. It was not like Greeks and Gauls never hung out or lived in the same places.

As for Portugal and Spain, skillful Phoenician sailors navigated the Atlantic coast and Mediterranean, transporting precious Celtic metals to the Greeks. Ideas, slaves, merchants and explorers joined those travelers on the Sea.

Erecura and Ataegina are great Goddesses for interfaith Pagan ritual. Hellenistic, Roman and Celtic polytheists can all worship together quite easily. (They did it before!) Because orthodoxy is not very important, you need not be alone even if you only know duotheist Wiccans. In the Wiccan Wheel of the Year, these are perfect Celtic Goddesses for a spring equinox ritual. Perhaps you can also have a solitary rite focusing more on the Celtic polytheist aspects.

Spelt grain is easy to find at health food stores. Ovid wrote pure offerings were desired even if small, so organic would be best even if it’s very little. Homemade incense with salt (if no one has asthma, etc), milk, wine and honey – we know these are traditional Roman offerings for the rite. Flowers and early spring fruit (like strawberries) I personally believe would be appreciated but only if in season. It never has made sense to me to pretend that there’s flowers and seeds outside at a spring equinox ritual and then leave the building to find 2 feet of snow. (Please never buy flowers unless from a source you know, as the pesticides sprayed on them are at extremely high levels. Pesticides used on nonedibles like flowers and cotton for fabric are responsible for more dangerous endocrine disruptors than food cultivation because so many more toxic chemicals are allowed to be used.)

I quite enjoy ritual theater, something missing from much of today’s ceremonies. If you have a chance to reenact the return of the spring Goddess from the Underworld (even if the person “being Her” is not possessed or able to aspect), giving your offerings to someone in Her mask and garb can be very powerful. Watching a group of women in white dramatically search for Her with sounds, lights, and props can become engrossing. The Romans had theaters at many sanctuaries and many Celts would not be unfamiliar with plays about mythology.

(Steel Bars, Sacred Waters has a lot of information about the drinks, foods, ways of sitting at a feast, instruments, clothing, decor, language, fabrics, shrines and more used in traditional Celtic rituals in different places and times. If starting with the circular procession, I would enter from the southwest to face a shrine in the northeast, especially if you are basing your tradition on Brythonic culture or a culture near Britain. You could dance around a wooden pole carved into a female shape with glass eyes wearing a torc if you want a more northern Gaulish experience. The book provides more.)

If you are alone, you can still use any ritual structure in the book and make your offerings. If you want to visualize being at the ancient ceremonies described, go for it! Depending on the weather you may want to practice mindfulness meditation outside with the changes in the season.

I’ve often thought it was a good time for healing rituals involving rape, as Persephone was kidnapped and raped by Hades. She returns not as Kore the child girl, but as Queen of the Underworld with Her compassion for the dead. Rape recovery often involves “dead” parts of us returning to life, many terrified or enraged, and we need that compassion of the Queen of the Underworld. And as Persephone reemerges to Her old life, She’s changed but has great power and wisdom. Our lives may stop during recovery from trauma, but we will rejoin the world, just in a healthier, more whole way.

Your only ritual obstacle might be (if like me) you also have a strong relationship with the Anglo-Saxon Goddess Eostre, also honored on the full moon of April after the spring equinox!

 

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)

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

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

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

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)

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

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

Celtic Festival Calender: the Complex Goddess Sulis Minvera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Steel Bars, Sacred Waters:

Invocation to Sulis by Heather Awen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selected Bibliography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Huth, Christoph and Monika Kondziella, Textile symbolism in Early Iron Age burials, CONNECTING ELITES AND REGIONS: Perspectives on contacts, relations and differentiation during the Early Iron Age Hallstatt C period in Northwest and Central Europe, Robert Schumann & Sasja van der Vaart-Verschoof (ed.) Sidestone Press (2017)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15e725ee-88c0-47c7-8e83-2445417b03b8
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)

Prayer to Brigantia for Ruling Yourself (for PTSD recovery)

This is the prayer that began the PTSD recovery process for a transwoman raped in prison. Learn more here.

Prayer to Brigantia for Ruling Yourself (for PTSD recovery)
by Heather Awen

Brigantia, heavenly Goddess most exalted,
Please grant me memory of this primal truth:
Everything between here and here* is under my own sovereign rule.

I am territory in my own possession
Where the past is merely a phantom procession,
One no longer my obsession.
My mind is my own, and my thoughts are free.
Nothing done to my body makes it less holy.

Whatever torments my spirit had, have now released me.

I’m responsible for my behavior.
That’s a truth I shall not belabor.

Who I am is within my own control,
I am owned by none within my soul, and
My psyche is mine, still and always, pure and whole.

Hail, Brigantia, heavenly Goddess most exalted!

* Put one hand under your butt if sitting on the floor, feet if sitting in a chair or squatting, or knees if kneeling. Put the other above your head. If you have only one hand, swoop it around your body. If you have no hands, move your eyes from the top to the bottom. Always adapt all ritual actions to any physical impairments or differences. No gets left out!

 

Gullveig Press does not endorse WordPress ads.

Transwoman Rape Survivor Finds Help in Book, or, Ally is the New 4 Letter Word

A Pagan transwoman in a men’s prison was raped about a decade ago. She’s been since transferred but writes “I’m terrified of men. I’m not safe. The men think I am a whore. I like men, but I want someone I can trust.” This woman has been doing hormone therapy for two years. She gets up to shower by herself at 4:45 am. After that she’s with men who have not had a touch from a woman in decades, many of them convicted of sexualized violence.

She doesn’t have a support system. No transgender penpals. Family isn’t accepting.

She received a free copy of Steel Bars, Sacred Waters, and began practicing the Brigantia Prayer for Sexualized Violence Survivors. Something began to change for her. She realized, really realized, she was not alone. Others throughout time and all through our rape prone society (where 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men are raped) have experienced the soul violation of having your Sovereign control over your SELF destroyed. Transgender people have the highest rape rates in prison. There’s a very good reason for why she’s in fear.

She began the PTSD breathing meditation. It actually turns off the hormonal flood that causes the fight flight or freeze reaction. She felt better. The “Truth” essay, with instructions for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Radical Acceptance, the most popular and effective therapies along with mindfulness meditation (which her breathing meditation is), taught her how to determine what was happening now and what was her own feelings.

Because these things worked, she joined the prison PTSD group. She likes it. Federal prison is often considered “Club Med” compared to most state prisons. If she was not convicted of a federal crime, she probably wouldn’t have a PTSD support group. (That it’s minimum security doesn’t hurt either.)

She wrote to say thanks. That without the book she would have been to afraid to get help. And having someone write for imprisoned Pagans, especially including transgender Pagans in prison, made her feel like some cared.

I put together a little list of resources that are free for people in prison. She makes $5.25 a month, so using the money for stamps really cuts into her meager income. If she sends me her list with one stamp, I’ll go online and order the free resources. Plus I’m collecting rape recovery and PTSD recovery information to send her. I’m hoping that a transgender Pagan who said they’d write her actually does.

We need solidarity in our actions. I read this a lot. Saying you are an ally like it’s your identity is considered bullshit. Either you are taking (often emotionally painful) action to support people who don’t have the option to take a break from “the issues” or you’re not. Ally is the new four letter word.

 

Gullveig Press does not endorse WordPress ads.