Celtic Goddesses & Women of Prophecy: Velonsae, Fedelm, Veleda & the Gaulish Sorceresses, the Uidlua

Yarn magic, sorcery and prophecy are all words rooted in an ancient Celto-Germanic Indo-European linguistic change. This change is believed to have happened in the early Bronze Age before there even was a proto-Celtic language. (For more information especially about the archeological evidence connecting the proto-Celtic people in Spain and the proto-Germanic people in Scandinavia, please click here.) In this change, the proto-Indo-European word for “yarn, string” became the Celtic root for sorcery, while for the Germanic peoples it eventually became the word seidR.

We know that the Germanic tribes believed some women had psychic prophetic powers. Thiota of the Alemannic-Frankish people, the Semnones’ seeress Ganna, and Waluburg who went with German soldiers to Egypt are documented by the Romans in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE. In the 5th century the Christian Goths blamed the Huns on the Haliarunnos, their Pagan wise women who consulted the dead. This is similar to the work of a volva in the Icelandic sagas when she performed seidR, holding her staff. Ganna and Waluburg come from Germanic words for “wand” and may have been titles like volva.

The Romans recorded that Veleda was a Bructerian priestess who prophesied during a Germanic and Gaulish rebellion against Roman rule. Veleda was assumed by many to speak a Germanic language, but further investigation points to a Celtic name. Until the Romans decided that everyone living northwest of the Rhine was Germanic speaking and everyone to the southwest of the Rhine was Gaulish and then attempted to reinforce that, in reality tribes could have spoken either, both or even possibly a unique combination of the languages. The Belgae region (roughly in the area of and around modern Belgium) was most likely Celto-Germanic Iron Age mix, with the Celtic name Belgae meaning “swelling with battle rage.” In dress, lifestyle and housing there was little difference between the two. A German tribe is known to have helped a Gaulish ally in their battles against another Gaulish tribe, and it probably wasn’t that unusual for temporary alliances to have been made. We find this in the rebellion against the Roman Empire, guided by Veleda. Although the rebellion failed, Veleda is supposed to have impressed the Romans so much that she was brought to Rome. (Veleda is pronounced more like Weleda.)

The Romans assumed Veleda was a personal name, but it is linguistically connected with the Old Irish title velet or fili, “bard, poet,” the Welsh gweled, “seer,” and the Gaulish uidlua, “sorceress.” Modern Gaulish Reconstuctionist Segomâros Widugeni uses the term welitâ, a “female mystic associated with seership and the sovereignty complex” who “Carried the Weaver’s Beam as a badge of office.” Gifts from the bride to the groom of expertly woven fabrics were an important part of the Hallstatt and later Gaulish marriage ceremonies. The Celtic king-making ceremony is believed to have involved a symbolic marriage to a high ranking woman who offered him ale or mead. The woman represented the sovereignty of the land and was most likely a file or welitâ, depending on where in the vast Celtic-speaking world the ceremony took place.

This nicely brings us to the seeress in the great Irish saga Tain Bo Cuailnge, Fedelm Noíchrothach (“nine times beautiful”). Because her name appears between other Goddesses’ names such as Macha, some believe that Fedelm was originally considered a Goddess. Fedelm makes Her appearance when Queen Medb (a Gaelic sovereignty Goddess of intoxication) is about to leave with Her army. She arrives wearing red in a chariot drawn by two black horses, described as a beautiful young woman with three braids, two coiled on her head and another hanging to her calves. Each eye has three pupils. She holds a gold weaver’s beam, an object commonly associated with fate in Indo-European mythology. Some scholars believe her name is linguisticly linked to Veleda.

Another Goddess linked to Veleda is the Celtiberian Velonsae whose name refers to a strong will, command, and prophecy. Three Germanic Suebic military leaders are known to have had Celtic names associated with the same Celtic word for “command” found in Velonsae. Again we are reminded of the interconnected history of the Celtic and Germanic speaking peoples. Velonsae also has linguistic connections to the Old Irish word file (poet-seer), which connect Her to Fedelm. Velonsae is one of the few Celtic Goddesses known to be directly involved with fate and prophecy, and I am surprised that She is not worshiped more widely, especially by those involved with divination and the psychic arts.

The Uidlua are less well known. They were a a group of Gaulish women who had the help of a sorceress named Severa Tertionicna in a legal dispute. We know this from a curse tablet where the plaintiff asks a Goddess to reverse Severa’s magic so he can finally in court win against the Uidlua. Severa Tertionicna used yarn in her spell, another connection to the weaving. The names of the Uidlua are listed, but as the daughters of mothers, not fathers, which is very unusual for Gauls. Their “mothers” may have really been their sorceress teachers, because three Uidlua had the same “mother.”

While we find triads of Celtic Goddesses like the Matres, the Morrigan and Brig, there’s no explicitly stated three Celtic destiny Goddesses like the Norse Norns and Roman Fates in what we know of Celtic deities. (The Morrigan, Macha and Badb are involved in battle prophecy and magic to influence the outcome, which seems to be a version of the triple destiny Goddesses, especially with Badb‘s similarity to Lugh, the oath God who possibly declared the futures of people.) Still, we find likely fate Goddesses in Fedelm, Velonsae, Rosmerta and a Gaelic Christian mention of the 7* sisters of fate. History records other Celtic female seers and yarn sorceresses, like the Scottish and Manx “witches” who sold sailors strings with knots which, when untied, would release the wind. The highest level of the file, the ollamh, was trained in magical arts, a highly prestigious rank achieved by Ullach, daughter of Muinechan, who died in 934. She was called Banfile Eireann, “The Woman Poet of Ireland”. Add the Gaulish island of Sena where female oracles who, when possessed by the deity, foretold a person’s future, and we find a long history of prophetesses and yarn sorceresses in Celtic lands.

*(While 3 was the most significant number in Indo-European culture, 7 was the sacred number for the Near East due to the seven “planets” who correspond with the Sumerian deities. The importance of 7 became part of the Old Testament and Christianity.)

 

Bibliography

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

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

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

Jones, Prudence and Pennick, Nigel, The History of Pagan Europe.

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

Price MacLeod, Sharon, Celtic Myth and Religion: A Study of Traditional Beliefs with Newly Translated Prayers, Poems and Songs. McFarland Press (2012)

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

Widugeni, Segomâros, Ancient Fire: An Introduction to Gaulish Celtic Polytheism. ADF Publishing (2018) Where was this book 20 years ago? Hey, for the total beginner, it’s here now!

Celtic Festival of Sirona – Pagan Artist Alexandra Rena

Sirona Alexandra Rena
Sirona by Alexandra Rena

On March 30 the Romans held another festival for Salus (“salvation”) who was identified with the Greek Goddess Hygieia. The snake imagery of both Goddesses was used for the Gaulish Goddess Sirona. If you wonder why snakes are such an important part of Greek and Prussian Pagan religion, the reason is that they were semi-domesticated animals that families fed as the spirit of place. For the Greeks, the monthly and daily offerings to the house snake were vital to the household religion.

Sirona has another holy day in my “What if the Celts used the Roman calendar their own way?” project. You can read all about Sirona there. It makes sense to honor the Goddess of health in the autumn and spring, when tonics for good health are taken. The changing seasons tend to bring colds, pollen allergies and the use of different muscles.

Also, I had to share Alexandra Rena’s gorgeous depiction of Sirona! Alexandra has been creating a beautiful series of Gaulish deity art which she let’s me use on this blog. She seeks to make sure that these ancient, often overlooked deities are not forgotten by creating stunning religious images. I try to do the same thing with writing. She has a background in fabric and clothing, which gives her an edge on many artists because she studies the fashion of the cultures from where all deities originated. I personally know how much research she puts into the deity and the physical culture of the deity’s first known devotees. The combination of scholarly research and artistic talent meet in a devotional polytheist’s sacred craft.

Alexandra’s available for commissions, like this powerful one of Freya. The photos of Tier, Sweden and Copenhagen are from her trip, where she graciously agreed to take my offerings with her own to deities worshiped in those areas. And Alexandra finished the mysterious computer and design work on Steel Bars, Sacred Waters when my homeboy was diagnosed with cancer. She didn’t even know me! Her friendship is my unexpected gift from doing the book.

I hope that you will look at her divine work and become a supporter. That mind blowing color art of Sumeria in the last post was from her Stone Oracle deck, which you can be part of at Patreon. Check out her black and white art of RosmertaTaranus, Epona, Abnoba and the outstanding color art of Artio!

 

Gullveig Press does not support the advertisers that WordPress puts on the blog. Buy prints and original art from Alexandra Rena instead and support your community!

Belinos or Belenos? Pagans Respond to COVID-19

I’m happy with how fast word of mouth spreads. Now I send complete a Pagans in Prison Resource List along with ways to creatively practice in prison to folks who write “I found Gullveig Press scribbled on a paper, do you know of anything that or anyone who can help educate Pagans in prison?” As the only clearinghouse of Pagan prisoner information, I send letters with the list if they have specific Pagan questions. I’ll check what their facility is supposed to allow if they don’t know. Mostly I wish them good luck.

The COVID-19 virus is terrifying inmates. They can’t quarantine and buses are moving prisoners from facility to facility as if there’s no State of Emergency. Hand sanitizer has alcohol in it, so it’s not allowed, and for prisoners who have no income, the one bar of lye soap to wash body, hair and clothing doesn’t last long. I’m sure that you have all been very worried, especially because so many people in prison are HIV+ or live with Hep C, diabetes/heart disease and respiratory diseases. I’m sure that you are praying for them, writing letters to the editor of your paper, and donating money to help inmates with compromised immune systems have their medication, food, etc. (Black & Pink, the nation’s LGBTQIA 25+ prisoner advocacy group is currently requesting donations to help people living with HIV during this dangerous time.)

From the many copies of Steel Bars, Sacred Waters I’ve paid to donate to books-to-prisoners organizations, TWO have ended up in the same facility where there’s 130 Pagans! I know this from a letter from Jay Glenewinkel. He wrote to tell me that the Ostara ritual at Seogoville, Texas, on March 19th included a prayer I wrote in SBSW. It can actually be used as a Magickal chant to raise power, which never occurred to me. I’m sharing it here in case others are looking for a prayer or chant during this stressful time.

Seriously, I really would like to know that Pagans on the outside who have the luxury of hand sanitizer and quarantine are praying for those who don’t. Please. This is one out of one hundred Americans. It’s the parents of 27 American children. No other country even comes close to these numbers! In other nations many of these people would never even have been in prison or would have been released far sooner. Who is a prisoner is a political decision. It’s a reflection of the nation’s fear and hatred, not the people in prison.

If you were in the UK, Canada, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand, Finland, Japan, Spain, Brazil, Ireland, etc., they’d be probably be your neighbors and co-workers, not prisoners.

They’d be considered human beings.

Belinos

(from Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners)

Belinos was a widely popular God in Gaul, northern Italy, the Alps, and Slovakia. Belinos was possibly worshiped by more Celtic peoples than any other deity. Sometimes he is shown with a female figure thought to be the Goddess Belisama. In Slovakia there was still a cult to a God named Belin in the 19th century. An ancient stone carving depicted two human forms with lines radiating from their heads. The Slavic people called it Belin, “the rock,” or “triple faced,” showing that some version of the much-loved Celtic deity, probably merged with other influences, survived that long.

Belinos was especially popular in northeastern Gaul, Austria, and farther east. Worship of him has not been found in Britian, but “the King of the Britons” was Cynobellini, a name that contains beli and appears on coins. Belinos‘ name is also found in some place and personal names, like the second half of Llewellyn (probably “Lugus-Belinos“). Belinos appears to be a solar God, but Celtic Gods are usually wise, generous, brave defenders and healers, skilled in every art, and all-round perfect chieftains. They are whatever is needed to help their tribe/worshipers: warriors are poets; kings are shoe-makers.

It’s currently believed that Belinos became confused by scholars with a Celtic name for the Greek/Roman God Apollo, Belenos. We only know Belenos from the northestern Italian city of Aquileia. Belinos was also worshipped there, but like everywhere in the Celtic world, Belinos was never named with Apollo in any inscription or shrine. In modern times scholars began “correcting” Belinos to the wrong name Belenos. Reviews of the original evidence very recently found the mistake. We can expect more accurate information about deities as Celtic studies continue. If someone has a strong relationship with Belenos, they may be worshiping Apollo by his Celtic name. Apollo‘s cult began in southern Gaul during the 5th century BCE, making him a regional Celtic deity.

Prayer to Belinos to Stop Contagious Disease from Spreading in the Prison

by Heather Awen

Body to body, blood to blood,
No longer does the infection spread,
For Belinos is our protector and guards us from disease.
The fear is gone, the people relax,
No longer does the infection spread,
For Belinos is our protector and guards us from disease.
Blessed by the fire in the sky,
No longer does the infection spread,
For Belinos is our protector and guards us from disease.
Federal prisons often allow Pagans a lot more than state prisons because Native Americans have made great legal strides in being allowed to practice their religions outside. Most state prisons don’t offer the very expensive email available in many Federal prisons. Women’s prisons usually have more receptive Chaplains and fewer restrictions for Pagans, but they still need Pagans on the outside for guidance.

 

Gullveig Press does not support any advertisers to whom WordPress sold space. We probably have very different values than these companies.

Festival of Roman Briton Goddess Sulis Minerva

Researching more about Sulis Minerva made it personally one of the more intriguing posts I’ve written on a scholarly, detached level. It teaches us so much about how Roman religion influenced the Britons and how much the Britons adapted Roman religion into something that made sense to their sensibilities. If you just joined the blog, here’s the link to the festival and the interesting hints about Brythonic polytheism. The Celtic ancient deities whose names we know are almost from imported Gaulish or North Italian Celtic soldiers in the Roman military. Brigantia, Domnu, Coventina, and probably Nodens are among the few native deities. Sulis Minerva? It’s more about what happened at Her temple that helps us piece together the Britons’ relationship with deities than information about from where She came.

Festival of Artio

artio_Alexandra Rena
Artio by Alexandra Rena

I started a series that imagined the conquered Celtic peoples honored their own deities associated with Roman deities on the Roman festivals for Roman deities. It’s possible that some Celts did this, as they seem to have had a lot of power in how they adopted Roman religion. Now I’m reaching to the Athens festival calendar, knowing that while the southern Gauls adopted the Greek deities Hermes and Apollo, there’s no way that they worked with the Athens calendar. However, it allows me to include other Celtic deities that otherwise don’t have modern festival dates, like the Goddess Artio.

The Athens calendar was lunar-solar and its months are explained in this post. (I’ll wait while you read that.) On the day after the March-April month’s full moon, Athens honored Artemis as protectress of the female bear. Round cakes with a lit candle in the center were offered as symbols of the moon. (For the “Gaulish Diana” click here.)

And now that we have a day to revere Her, let’s return to Artio.

640px-Muri_statuette_group_1832_Hinkender_Bote_illustration
Muri statuette group before Artio was assembled. Naria is labeled with “E”.

Artio was unknown until the only depiction of Her was found in Bern, Switzerland, with five other bronze statuettes of deities: the Roman Juno, Minvera, Jupiter and a Lare, plus the mysterious Gaulish Goddess Naria. They were probably worshipped by the river Aar at the temple of the regio Arurensis. 

The bottom of Artio‘s statuette has the inscription “To the Goddess Artio” or “Artionis”, “from Licinia Sabinilla”. The name of the devotee is Italic but common in Gaul. 

640px-The_Mythology_of_all_races_(1918)_(14763072414)
Artio after being reassembled.

Although Artio became very popular in Bern during the 19th century when the statuette was recovered, that’s not Her only place of ancient worship. Inscriptions have been recovered in Stockstadt, Weilerbach, Daun, and Hedderheim, all in Western or Central Germany.

Her name clearly links Her to bears. Beyond that, we really don’t know anything. She seems to feed the bear apples, which could allude to a forgotten myth, or the apples in Her lap are a typical Roman symbol of an abundance Goddess.

 

 

Bibliography

Mikalson, Jon D., Ancient Greek Religion, 2nd ed., Wiley-Blackwell (2010)

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

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artio (accessed February 15, 2020)

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muri_statuette_group (accessed February 15, 2020)

 

Mars & Celtic Gods Neto, Lenus, Cocidius, Rudianos & Nemetona (plus some Heathen myth skepticism)

For those of you who weren’t reading this time last year, here’s the link to the festival for a ton of Celtic deities associated with Mars. Some of Them probably were associated with Mercury, too. The imperial Roman pantheon doesn’t match well with small independent tribes’ “chieftain” God. He doesn’t really match Jupiter, the Emperor of the deities, because they didn’t have an Empire. The Kemetic, Greek and Babylonian Empires had pantheons that seemed to fit with each other better because of their cultural similarities. You find this when comparing the Sumerian/Babylonian deities who ARE the planets (Jupiter – Marduk, Venus – Inanna/Ishtar, Moon – Nanna/Sin, etc) with Their Greek equivalent.

The tribal independence of the Celtic speaking peoples leads to more regional divine ancestor style deities of the place and clans of a tribe. Lots of Them because there were lots of tribes. To be a good chieftain, you had a father role in that culture. You protected your huge “extended family” of the tribe, like Mars. Mars takes care of boundaries – the city of Rome’s, the farmstead’s. His own temple was on the edge of Rome, because He like most warriors defended borders. Also, warrior energy isn’t really civilized enough to be in the domestic realm of life. What warriors face they become – dangerous to society. We see this with demi-God hero Cu Chulainn. The red halo, destructive acts and twisted body of His warp spasm need three vats of cold water and the mothering bare breasts of the noble women to return Him to a civilized state that was safe to be near the civilian population. Beserkers weren’t guys you wanted hanging out in your village during peace time. A Celtic chieftain had to come from the warrior class, so a lot of Celtic deities were aligned with Mars. But a Celtic chieftain had to negotiate temporary federations, trade, have the wisdom of a poet, the strength of eloquence, and so many other tribal chieftain deities were associated with Mercury. And some were associated with both. Neto was also associated with Apollo, the solar light, the healer, the musician, the bisexual lover. The society structure made the chieftain God and the Goddess of the *fertile land/ river different than the deities of Empires.

This is why it’s very hard for me to believe the Eddas where there’s 12 (Olympian, anyone?) deities and Odin is somehow like Zeus, when these were rural people who put off unifying their many kingdoms for centuries. The Asatru temple to Odin in Iceland makes little sense to me because Odin was not very important to the Heathens of Pagan Iceland. Thor was by far the most important. Also we know Frey was very important and we read about His temple in the Sagas. Njord was given sacrifices because as an island people without any trees, they relied on trade with Norway and then trips to Greenland for timber and other items. No one could attack Iceland, so deities about war weren’t necessary. These were farmers and merchants. But being an educated man, I imagine Snorri tried to put the myths into a Classical background. He was dealing with the powerful unified Norwegian royal family –  the people whose ancestors chased out the lesser kings who became many of the settlers of Iceland. That he named his spot at the Althing Valhalla tells us quite a bit about his ego and which God He felt was most important, even though it doesn’t match what we know about Heathen Iceland.

* In some Celtic languages the word for “valley” and “river” are the same. Rivers flow through valleys. Nantosuelta’s name translates into “sunlit valley”, surely the ideal place for cattle and crops, but is usually translated in older Pagan books as “winding river”. With the continental Celts, especially the Gauls, I try to put both words together and think “river valley.”

Celtic Festival of Dies Equeunu and the Alci

Alci Alexandra Rena
The Alci sketch by Alexandra Rena

This continues my modern Reconstruction-derived practice of interpreting Roman holy days in a Gaulish, Iberian, trans-Alpine Celtic manner. Erudinus is the only ancient Celtic deity for whom we have a Celtic festival date, so for the rest, I’m trying what some ancient Celtic language speaking tribes may have done: match a native deity with a Roman one.

Researchers now tend to believe that the conquered Celtic peoples often chose what parts of Roman religion to take, even choosing the Roman God for the correspondence, which is perhaps why many Celtic Gods are linked to Mars in one inscription and Mercury in another. The official Roman pantheon really doesn’t match the tribal deities of the different Celtic peoples. To the Gauls, Mercury, who was not very popular among most Romans,  was considered far more important than Jupiter. Mercury had the strength of communication, wealth and safe travels. Mars was the protector. Together They met the requirements for a good chieftain. As the Gauls rejected attempts by nobles to unify different tribes and form a permanent empire, a “top God” like Jupiter was not traditional.

Relevant parts of Roman religion was adopted and sometimes a self-conscious nostalgia for their own almost forgotten ways was revitalized. The latter seems to be especially true for the Britons, based on Folly Lane. (What’s that? You don’t know what is at Folly Lane and what it says about how Britons were adapting and reacting to Roman religion? Maybe you should buy a copy of Steel Bars, Sacred Waters and find out! Shameless plug for a great cause!)

On February 27 the Romans held a festival celebrating the birth of the Greek Castor and Pollox, the horse riding sons of Zeus, also known as “dioskouri”. They have a beautiful myth of self sacrifice which is related to the meaning of the astrological sign Gemini, according to East. “Castor was born mortal. Pollux was born immortal. When Castor was slain in battle, Pollux was inconsolable in his grief. He begged Zeus to relieve him of the bonds of immortality and allow him to die along side his brother. Zeus refused. And yet, in his wisdom, Zeus solved Pollux’s pain by granting Castor immortality as well.” Also, according to Brady, “Castor was connected to the morning star and was the horseman; Pollux, the boxer, was connected to the evening star and was associated with darkness.”

Castor and Pollox were very popular with the Gauls. The proto-Indo-European twin “Sons of God” survived not only in Greece and Rome, but in many cultures. They often are associated with a solar or mare (or both) Goddess who may be Their mother, wife, or both. The mother of Castor and Pollox is a mare in some myths and are the companions of the Sun. The Aśvins (“Horsemen”) are Vedic heroes, physicians and perhaps the evening and morning star (Venus) always found with the Sun, whose daughter Sūryā is Their wife. The Lithuanian Dieva Deli (“Sons of God”) travel the sky as horses with Their sister Saules Dukterys (“Daughter of the Sun”) whom They court romantically. The legendary brothers who led the Angles, Jutes and Saxons’ invasion of Britain, Hengist (“stallion”) and Horsa (“horseman”), may also have Their roots here.

It’s very odd that the famous horse riding Celts don’t have any horse twin hero Gods. Of course, the ancient mare Goddess Macha gives birth to twins after being forced to race the King of Ulster’s horses. (A race She won.) The greatest Irish hero Cu Chulainn in His earliest tales was born with a colt. The Mabinogi states that mare Goddess Rhiannon‘s son Pryderi was found as a newborn with a mare who just gave birth to a colt. Although these medieval hints suggest that there were ancient Celtic twin horse hero Gods, until recently Their names were unknown.

Then, an inscription was recovered in Pola de Gordón, León, to Dies Equeunu (pronounced: Dee-ess eh-QUEE-hu-nu), “the sons riding on the horse”. That’s about the clearest title for these deities as you can get! Notice that They ride one horse. More details are found in Iberia and Gaul, but with Their other title, the Alci.

Here’s what Tacitus wrote in Germania: “Among the Nahanarvali is shown a grove, the seat of a prehistoric ritual: a priest presides in female dress; but according to the Roman interpretation the gods recorded in this fashion are Castor and Pollux: that at least is the spirit of the godhead here recognised, whose name is the Alci (nomen Alcis). …they worship these dęities as brothers and as youths.”

There are Gaulish personal names like Alcovindos, meaning “white like the Alci” and place names like Alcobendas near Madrid, meaning “hills of the Alci.” Obviously, the “the sons riding on the horse” have something to do with being white. Guides to the Celtic realm of the dead ride white horses, like the Mabinogi‘s Arawn, Gwyn ap Nudd, and the Gaelic Donn. Gwyn and Fionn mean “white,” so we can pretty safely guess that Their horse is white. If They are associated with the Sun or Venus, white could possibly be connected to radiance. However, we don’t have any evidence linking Them to either.

“Hey! The Alci are German Gods, Heather! Now I doubt your entire blog and book!” No! Wait! Please, there’s fancy linguistic proof! Also, when the Germanic tribes migrated into a Roman Celtic world, the Germanic languages absorbed many Celtic words. And remember that Celtic people over a wide area were naming their children and places after the Alci.

The fancy linguistic proof: Take the Indo-European word Palkio, meaning “divine twins” and do the usual Celtic drop of the first letter “p”.  We get the Celtic “divine twins” – Alkio. Then, the logic goes, the Alci is a Celtic name for the divine twins. This is why we can learn so much about a deity by Their name, which often is a title.

We know that the Romans often were wrong about what tribes were of which culture. Despite their map showing that the Germanic tribes lived north of the Rhine and Gauls lived south of the important trade river, it was never that simple. The Belgae region seems to be Celto-Germanic, a merging of established Gaulish peoples and recent Germanic emigrants. According to Tacitus, in the 1st century CE the People of Ingvi-Frey, the Ingvaeones, had settled the area around and including Denmark. Also, early records of Germanic tribes mention leaders who had Celtic names. A few scholars think that there may have been a Celtic elite who ruled over some of the North Sea tribes. Before Denmark’s coastline drastically changed a few centuries before the German migrations, these Celtic tribes may have made southern Sweden a satellite state. If Celts were worshiping the Alci in Denmark then, the Germanic people may have learned about the Alci then, if Germanic tribes ever did.

Also, we now have a lot of linguistic and physical evidence that during the Bronze Age people in southern Sweden and coastal northern Spain were trading goods and culture. The Scandinavian petroglyphs and Iberian stele of that time depict almost startling exact images of wagons and warriors. Scandinavian amber has been recovered in Greece, increasing the range of the Bronze Age trading region. The Phoenicians built the first city in Iberia in the 9th century BCE on Spain’s Atlantic coast, being the first people to trade in the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic coast. The proto-Celtic Atlantic Seacoast Culture spread from the Straits of Gibraltar to Scotland, but some evidence may show trade with Sweden. This could be another way the Celtic word arrived in a  Germanic language – again, if the Alci ever were worshiped by Germanic tribes.

Prayer to Dies Equeunu for Fast Rescue Heather Awen 

O Dies Equeunu,
Please hear my prayer!
I am in trouble,
I need fast help,
I need the Divine Twins!
Please, quickly ride into this situation,
Stop the crisis,
Save my life, save our lives,
Save us!
Time is of the utmost importance,
Lives are at risk!
Dies Equeunu, you are Gods of heroes
And I need you here now!

 

Bibliography

Brady, Bernadette, Brady’s Book of fixed Stars. Samuel Weiser, Inc. (1998)

Cultraro, Massimo, Evidence of Amber in Bronze Age Sicliy: Local Sources and the Balkan-Mycenaean Connection. Eds. Galanaki, Tomas, Galanakis, Laffineur. Aegaeum 27, Between the Aegean and Baltic Coasts Prehistory Across Borders

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

Danka, Ignacy Ryszard & Witczak, Krzysztof Tomasz, DEIS EQLTL\LBO The Divinę Twins in Asturia, Dimensions and Categories of Celticity: Studies in Language, Piotr Stalmaszczyk & Maxim Fomin (eds) (2009)

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

East, Sonrisa, Where Alpha Meets Omega: Mythology of the Constellations, Space Exploration & Astrology. (2019)

Fortson, Benjamin W., Indo-european Language and Culture: an introduction— 2nd ed., Wiley-Blackwell (2010)

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

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

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

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

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

Koch, John T, Celtic origins reconsidered in the light of the ‘archaeogenetics revolution’ (2018)

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

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

Ling, Johan & Koch, John, A sea beyond Europe to the north and west. Giving the past a future: Essays in Archaeology and Rock Art Studies in honour of Dr. Phil Gerhard Milstreu, Dodd & Meijer (eds), 2018

Manco, Jean, Ancestral Journeys: The Peopling of Europe from the First Ventures to the Vikings, 2nd ed. Thames & Hudson (2015)

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

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

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

Price MacLeod, Sharon, Celtic Myth and Religion: A Study of Traditional Beliefs with Newly Translated Prayers, Poems and Songs. McFarland Press (2012)

Sacred Texts Celtic, http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/index.htm

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

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

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

Tacitus, Germania

Waddell, John, Equine Cults and Celtic Goddesses, EMANIA Bulletin of the Navan Research Group (2018)

Celtic Festival of Tongoenabiagus & Nabia: Exploring Celtic Iberian Castro Culture & Its Irish & British Shared History

Fonte_do_Ídolo_Braga_kindlephoto-314812406
Fountain of the Idol

As I’ve stated in each post of the series, we know that the Celtic tribes had more power than once thought over how they interpreted the religion of the Romans who conquered them. If they often chose the Roman deity names to match their own deities, altered how Roman style temples were built and had their own ideas about Roman deities, perhaps they used the Roman calender to synchronize festivals for their deities. Even if they didn’t, it is a way for the modern Celtic polytheist to organize festivals today.

On February 21, the 3 day Roman festival the Parentalia ended as the Feralia began. In the original Roman calender, March was the first month, in honor of Mars, God of war, and February was dedicated to purification from the previous year. The Feralia was the final festival to honor the ancestors. Offerings, usually food, were taken to the tombs. The Feralia also honored Jupiter Feretrius. When people sign marriage and other contracts, Jupiter Feretrius is witness. In the Roman Empire, people made an oath that if that if they lied, Jupiter Feretrius should strike them down.

It’s the oath aspect of the festival that concerns this post. Lugus may derive from the word “oath” as in “I swear to curse you if you are my enemy, that’s my oath.” Lugh and Llew both use Magick to deal with enemies, so it’s a strong possibility. It may tell us something about the way Celtic language speakers understood the word “oath.” He may be a God of destiny, with these oaths. (The ancient Celto-Germanic crow Goddess Badb of Irish myth also uses the Crane Stance on Her prophetic curses.)

The 1st century shrine in Braga, Fonte do Ídolo (Fountain of the Idol), isn’t just dedicated to the popular deity Nabia (Pronounced: “NAH-bee-ah”). The God Tongoenabiagus is also named. (Pronounced: “tong-goy-na-BEE-ah-gus” – for me, it’s easier to learn if I break the name into two parts, practice them separately and then altogether.) The Celtic root word for His name is related to making oaths (“I swear”). Considering what we know about Lugus, Jupiter and ancient oath God UllR, it would seem that Tongoenabiagus smites those who break their promises.

There’s quite a lot of talk in Heathenry about the importance of keeping your word which applies to Celtic tribes as well. The entire structure of society was based on oaths. Warriors pledged to follow a chieftain, king or new young cattle raider. Heterosexual couples married, maintaining the patriarchal family. Lesser chieftains and kings pledged themselves to greater ones. Tribes formed loose federations, especially in wartime. Merchants were expected to give and get a fair price for their goods. And humans made oaths to deities and fully expected to have a cursed life if they broke them. Trade was just as important for the 1st century BCE Celt as it was for an 8th century Viking. The Gauls relied on their role of merchants so strongly that they adopted the Roman God of commerce and travel, Mercury, and worshiped Him more than the Romans did. Obviously the Celtic people in pre-Christian Iberia would have needed a deity to witness the promises of their contracts to make sure that the oath would be enforced by a greater power.

In the farthest southwest point of Portugal during the 6th century BCE, a Celtic language inscription written in the Phoenician alphabet praises Lug. His popularity in coastal Iberia (Celtici in the south, Gallaecia and Asturias in the north) and the eastern part of the Meseta and south of the Pyrenees Mountains (Celtiberia) appears to have been active and consistent even after Lugus was forgotten in Gaul. Iberia may even be the original home of Lug.

However, Gallaecia probably relied on a local oath-enforcer, the God Tongoenabiagus. The oath Gods tend to be very high ranking, often the leader of the pantheon. With this in mind, perhaps it makes sense that Tongoenabiagus, who is only mentioned once in the evidence left for archeologists, was included with Nabia, whose followers left behind evidence of many inscriptions and sanctuaries, at Braga in northwestern Portugal.

The gender of Nabia, like a few other Iberian deities, is somewhat confusing. Although linked with Jupiter by the Romans, Nabia was also associated several Goddesses, such as Victoria (Victory, a war Goddess), Juno (Jupiter’s wife and equal, the Queen Goddess), Diana (Goddess of wild forests, hunting and midwives) and others associated with fertility and health. These many Roman Goddesses provide us with a good example of how most Celtic Goddesses were understood by most Celtic language speaking people: capable of any “function.”

It is possible that Nabia was the head of the pantheon for the ferocious Bracari tribe who at one time controlled much of Gallaecia and Asturias. The Romans recorded that the Bracari were one of the fiercest Celtic tribes whose fearless female warriors would rather die than live as slaves. Like many Iberian people, the Bracari relied on selling metal ore and goods. When the Romans attacked, the Bracari’s warriors hid in their iron mine and ambushed Roman troops.

The first encounter between Celts in Iberia and Romans was probably as mercenaries in the Punic War. Phoenicians built the first Atlantic trade port in southern Spain in the 9th century BCE and were involved in the Atlantic Seacoast Culture, so the Celtic association with Carthaginian merchants was very old. We are given an interesting look at these warriors who seem to have been trained in Druid divination.

“Rich Gallaecia sent its youths, wise in the knowledge of divination by the entrails of beasts, by feathers and flames— who, now crying out the barbarian song of their native tongue, now alternately stamping the ground in their rhythmic dances until the ground rang, and accompanying the playing with sonorous caetrae.” (A caetra was a small type of shield used in the region).
– Silius Italicus, Punica

Where there’s trade, there’s transportation of goods. Nabia is the Goddess of fresh water and many important rivers, including the Nabão River in Tomar, the Rivers Navia (which flowed into the southern Bay of Biscay) and Avia, and the Neiva River by the ancient Roman capital of Gallaecia Bracara Augusta, which today is called Braga. She had several sanctuaries, including one with thermal hot springs, which connects Her to health. The Gallaecians understood the healing power of saunas, “taking baths in vapours that rise from heated stones.” (Strabo, III.3.3) The door frames for the inner rooms of saunas were highly decorated, suggesting a ceremonial function, and called pedras formosas (“beauty stones”).

Rivers were an important part of the European transportation system, which makes Nabia important for trade. Her good favor was needed for safe travels to and from the Atlantic coast, where boats could take the Iberian metals north to Gaul and Britain or be exchanged with Carthaginian merchants for wine, glass and pottery. In the Roman Empire, some Gaulish tribes earned their wealth by controlling a river and demanding tribute from those who would travel it. There’s no reason to think that some Celtic tribes in Iberia did not do the same.

With so many people coming together to trade, perhaps Tongoenabiagus was needed to keep merchants honest. The Fountain of the Idol was in a shrine dedicated to just Him and Nabia in the important Roman capital of Gallaecia Bracara Augusta, a center for luxury goods. Celtic cultures often paired a hero chieftain God with a sovereignty Goddess, both of whom had a variety of roles in human society ranging from granter of fertility to psychopomp for the dead. The pairing was not always the same couple and They did not necessarily have to be lovers. Rosmerta is traditionally paired with Mercury, but Her age indicates that She probably was understood to be His mother.

Although historically Gallaecia is as Celtic as Gaul or Ireland, it’s mostly ignored in every pop culture Celtic Paganism book and academic book on different Celtic Reconstructionist reading lists. This is true for all of Iberia. But Galicia has the most information on its native pantheon compared to the rest of Iberia and even the well-known Belgae tribes north of Gaul bordering Germania.

So why don’t we know about Nabia when She’s far more documented than a currently popular Goddess like Nemetona or Don? One reason is that the research has been happening recently and still yields surprises. Also, the Celtic Iberian deities have very few remaining statues (if any). Even without the details of a specific myth, the root word of a deity’s name/ title and Their depiction can tell us a lot about a deity, and we often don’t have either for Iberian deities. (Iberia was home to many different Celtic languages, some of which are only now seriously being studied.) The hundreds of inscriptions are being reexamined and we’re learning important details. The “dying and resurrection” grain God Erudinus also of northwestern Iberia had a festival on June 23 and 24. This is the ONLY date from actual polytheist Celts for an ancient Celtic deity and proves that the Summer Solstice was important to at least some Celtic people. (I believe that medieval Gaelic monks didn’t mention any solar Pagan holidays because they had been replaced by Easter, St John the Baptist Day, St. Martin’s Feast Day and Christmas.)

Another reason I think contributes to the obscurity of Celtic Iberia is simply ethnicity of Celtic Pagans today, which is an almost taboo subject. The truth is that most Celtic polytheists I have met are looking for their pre-Christian ancestral religion. British Pagans often ignore the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Danish Heathens and focus on the land in a neo-Celtic modern Druid cosmology. Brythonic polytheists mostly focus on the medieval Welsh text the Mabinogi and the inscriptions and temples to the deities of the occupying Gaulish soldiers in the Roman military. (Actual ancient Brythonic deities known today are few because native temples don’t have Latin inscriptions.)

Hughes* in his book The Book of Celtic Magic even invents a nationalist “Celtica” to describe the spirit, myth and traditions of the 6 nations that at least until recently had speakers of Celtic languages, which is odd because the ancients never referred to the inhabitants of Britain or Ireland as Celtic. The concept of a pan-Celtic cultural connection between these nations is very recent and ancient Celticia is a region mostly in modern-day France. The huge Keltoi culture across Europe into Turkey is ignored in his “Celtica” and implies that you must live in the U.K. and Ireland. If you are not there, you can’t feel “Celtica” which evidently exists only in those lands. Modern Saxon Pagans and German Celtoi  Reconstructionists are dismissed by writing like this, much less American Celtic Reconstructionists, which is sad. It is that type of attitude we’re trying to keep out of prison gangs using Paganism as a front – ethnic/national exclusion and cultural misappropriation.

Meanwhile, looking online, Scotland seems to have more Gaelic polytheists than Ireland, where Wicca is the most common Pagan religion. This could be because that much of Celtic mythology is common Irish knowledge woven into place and Catholicism, so it doesn’t feel like an occult (secret) religion. The Farrars, incredibly important English teachers of Wicca, have been based in Ireland for decades. Gaelic is a soon forgotten, difficult subject in school. Also, even in cosmopolitan Dublin and progressive Galway, bookstores have very limited Pagan sections compared to New Age and Buddhism. I hope the books by Lora O’Brien help Gaelic Pagans actually in Ireland, as they are very place-based.

The fascination with Gaelic polytheism mostly comes from the descendants of Irish immigrants. During the Irish Potato Famine the United States received a lot of Irish immigrants. Irish ancestry is the most common ancestry for Caucasian Americans, tied with German heritage. Australia and Canada also have many citizens whose ancestors came from Ireland and Scotland and so they turn to those deities. Even many Gaulish polytheists know from where in France or Germany their ancestors immigrated. As much as we say that ethnicity doesn’t matter in Celtic Pagan Reconstructionism – and it honestly doesn’t matter; anyone can worship Celtic deities in Celtic ways as it was a culture, not carried in DNA – it seems that most people are drawn to deities they think some of their ancestors worshiped. In fact, the only time I have heard someone say that they were Celtiberian was a Latino warrior in a primarily Gaelic ADF Grove.

Bilingual books about the Celtic tribes and their religion in Iberia probably would be popular with many Hispanic Pagans who seek an ancestral connection with ancient European polytheism, based on the pattern we find with other modern Celtic polytheists. I know that a lot of Latinos discover Paganism in prison, often through their devotion to Saint Muerte, but don’t feel like Wiccans or called to the Orisha, and of course are not allowed to be Odinist Heathens. From letters by Latino Pagans who received free copies of Steel Bars, Sacred Waters, I’m told that the ancestral connection with Celtic Paganism gives them a home once they know about it.

Yet Iberia should matter to all Celtic Pagans. Iberia had more Celtic settlements than anywhere else in Western Europe (yes, including France!) and deep cultural and linguistic ties to Ireland, Britain and coastal Gaul since the Neolithic Atlantic Seacoast Culture and the Bronze Age. So the culture of northwestern Iberia shares quite a lot with the most popular form of Celtic polytheism: Gaelic. It is even in important Gaelic mythology, as we’ll soon remember.

800px-Casa_reconstruida_do_castro_de_Santa_Tegra
Rebuilt hut in the oppidum of Santa Tegra, A Guarda, Galicia.

Nabia and Tongoenabiagus came from the Castro Culture, which was very similar to the Celtic tribes of Ireland and Britain. These tribes of the valleys and mountains near the Atlantic ocean were seasonally transhumant cattle-raising pastoralists protected by a warrior elite. That’s how we also describe the ancient Irish: seasonally transhumant cattle-raising pastoralists protected by a warrior elite. Like the Celtic peoples of Britain and Ireland, homes were round huts, unlike the Gauls. The Celtic people of northwest Iberia originally built small hill-forts (called “castros”) that were unoccupied and show no signs of warfare, just like in Britain. A few rounded huts with prominent hearths were available for some type of communal activity.

Two popular theories about the early hill-forts are: one, that they were tribal religious centers or, two, where the tribe’s pastoral animals were seasonally counted so the chieftain could take his share. The chieftain was responsible for sacrifices on behalf of the tribe. As archeology of Iron Age Britain shows that large amounts of animal sacrifices occurred in spring and autumn, coinciding with medieval Gaelic Beltain and Samhain, both ideas could easily be combined into tribal seasonal ceremonies based on the birth and death of cattle.

Casa_cividade_terroso
Family Setting of Cividade de Terroso

Just like in Britain, much bigger hill-forts were later constructed by fertile farmland, for defense and prestige. Some places built oppida (urban trading posts enclosed within intimidating walls), filled with round granaries, square workshops, communitarian halls, shared forges and of course saunas. Some even had fountains, drains and reservoirs, important for a Goddess of water like Nabia. At the same time, the round family hut became a fenced-in cluster of huts with a courtyard in the center, similar to those in coastal Wales when being raided by Irish pirates. Strabo described leather boats on northern Iberian rivers, lakes and coasts which probably were like Irish currachs and Welsh coracles. Bronze Age trade with Britain had long connected the two proto-Celtic lands, but this mostly ended in the early Iron Age. Iberia had iron and didn’t need to trade with Britain any longer. Yet their shared culture obviously continued.

The Celtic style of dress in Iberia was generally like that of other Celts, who all shared a love for fancy designs woven into fabric. Married women wore the same style head wraps as married Gaulish and Germanic women. A large scarf covered the braided hair, with the long ends of the fabric twisted and then wrapped around the head like a brim. (Statues of the Matres show these head wraps.) Every region had variations of the style; Iberians sometimes added a veil to cover the neck. Men wore arm bands and other accessories typical in metal rich Gaul, while women’s jewellery was somewhat influenced by the Mediterranean, especially earrings. Both men and women with power had their own versions of the gold torc neck band. The ends often had empty, large terminals which held little stones, making them rattles. As we know that rattles were sewn on garments in other Celtic regions, the find of torc rattles adds to our awareness that trance-inducing sound was valued by Celts in general.

The Castro Culture not only mined copper, gold, iron, tin and lead; they forged many tools. They were relatively self reliant communities. Breads were made from their own harvests of wheat and millet as well as roasted and ground acorns. Beer and bread came from oats and barley. Like the Britons they grew peas and cabbage and foraged for nutrient rich nettle and watercress. Clothing was made from linen and wool. Cattle provided milk and butter as well as meat along with pigs, sheep and goats. Hunts for wild boar and deer were popular, as in the medieval Welsh Mabinogi and depicted on carved and painted Pictish stones. The deities Epona and Lug were very popular, along with many local deities.

In Gaelic myth, Lugh‘s beloved foster mother is the Fir Bolg noble Tailtiu (pronounced: “TAL-dyoo”) who in one version is said to be a Princess of Galicia. It’s in Her honor that the early harvest festival Lughnasadh is celebrated. Marriage and fostering children were important political tools for gaining allies and ending wars. With Lug so popular in Iberia, could Lugh and Tailtiu be an old remembrance of an Iberian myth of the Celtic hero chieftain God and the sovereignty Goddess who makes the land fertile? Or of marriages used to form bonds between kingdoms that once included the Gallaecia and the insular Celts?

In Lebor Gabála Érenn (our main source for Irish mythology), the last invaders of Ireland are the sons of Mil, the ancestors of the Gaelic-speaking humans. They sailed to Ireland from Galicia, which makes northeastern Iberia home for the Gaels. Of course, this is tangled up with Biblical myth, like the whole Lebor Gabála Érenn and our sources for the ogham alphabet, along with Irish monks’ social commentary on the lack of protection from the Vikings. (Bres is usually a good member of the Tuatha De Danann. The myth about His greed and corrupt leadership seems to be an Irish monk’s creative writing about the current situation in 10th century Ireland. There’s many layers to the myths.)

If you once could not find a reason to learn about the Celts in Iberia, I hope that you now understand how important Iberia is for studying any Celtic language-speaking people’s religion. There’s even a strong Bronze Age connection with Sweden.

800px-Muros_de_San_Cibrao_de_Las
Walls of the oppidum of Lanobri or Lansbri, San Cibrao de Lás, Galicia.

The following prayer is from Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners. It is available from Gullveig Press to American incarcerated Pagans and those engaged in prison ministry at no profit to us ($12 for the huge book and shipping and taxes). For other people, if you buy it directly from us, it is less expensive than ordering it from Amazon and we get more profits which go straight to sending copies of the book to people in prison. ($25 covers everything – and it’s at least twice as long as most books!)

1% of Americans are in prison, more than any nation, and approximately 10% of prisoners are Pagan with few if any resources beyond white supremacist groups. This is 1 in 1,000 Americans, so there’s more Pagans in prison than outside of prison. Please donate your used paperbacks to your nearest books-to-prisoners organization. (Find it here.)

Prayer to Tongoenabiagus to Keep Your Word by Heather Awen

A person is only as good as their word,
And mine was often worthless,
Lying to family,
Betraying the trust of others.
I spread fear and doubt,
Made others suffer from my cowardice and greed.
O Tongoenabiagus,
Those broken vows
Those deceitful words
How I wish I could undo
The damage that came from every one.
Please don’t give up on me, Tongoenabiagus.
You see through all my broken promises,
Every con and every scam,
The hurt lovers and people poorer for knowing me,
And still believe I can change my ways.
I can change; I will! I have the courage to admit my mistakes to you, and
Unburdened, I have the courage to become a better person.
I admit them, you know what I have done.
Time to move into responsibility for the words I speak today.
Instead of being crushed by past shame I steady myself, making my vows something on which others can depend.
Truth – I know my limits and I know my strengths.
What I promise matches the reality of who I am and my situation.
I build my honor day by day, and although this is something only I can do,
Tongoenabiagus, I pray for help from you.
Thank you, strong one.

 

* Hughes is a Druid in his own order, not a Reconstructionist or focused on the living Celtic language cultures, so it’s his UPG without him stating this, a quality of the more dangerous types of Pagan books, especially for prisoners with extremely limited access to information. I like sharing UPG, but let’s be sure to call it that. It’s the main flaw in Raven Kaldera’s book for prisoners. Who said Frodi is Frey’s grandfather? Oh, him. Kaldera states as facts his own opinions, which confused many seeking a non-racist, non-homophobic Heathen resource

600px-Trisquel_de_Castromao
Triskelion from the Iron Age hill-fort of Castromao, Celanova, Galicia. Now in the Museo aqueolóxico provincial de Ourense.

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)

Ayán Vila, Xurxo M. A Round Iron Age: The Circular House in the Hillforts of the Northwestern Iberian Peninsula, e-Keltoi: Journal of Interdisciplinary Celtic Studies: Vol. 6 , Article 19. (2008)

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

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

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

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

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

Giesler, Friedrich, Topos and Reality: Celtic and Germanic Women’s Clothing as mirrored in Roman Art (2017)

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

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

Koch, John T, Celtic origins reconsidered in the light of the ‘archaeogenetics revolution’ (2018)

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

McCaffrey, Carmel & Eaton, Leo, In Search of Ancient Ireland. New Amsterdam Books (2002)

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

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

O’Brien, Lora, A Practical Guide to Irish Spirituality (Sli Aon Dhraoi). Wolfpack Publishers (2012)

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

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

Prosper, Blanca-Maria, Universidad de Salamanca, Linguistic Observations of Two Divinities of the Celtic Cantabri

Quintela, Marco V. Garcia, Celtic Elements in Northwestern Spain in Pre-Roman times, e-Keltoi: Journal of Interdisciplinary Celtic Studies: Vol. 6 , Article 10. (2005)

Simón, Francisco Marco, Religion and Religious Practices of the Ancient Celts of the Iberian Peninsula, e-Keltoi: Journal of Interdisciplinary Celtic Studies: Vol. 6, Article 6. (2005)

Tenreiro, Marcial, For a Juridical Ethnoarchaeology of the Bull (and Horse): Sacrifice, Circunvalation & Ordeal in Celtic Iberia, Acts of the 1º International Congress The Horse and The Bull in Prehistory and History (2016)

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)

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

 

Gullveig Press does not endorse whatever stuff WordPress is advertising. Odds are you don’t need it and it destroys your ecosystem, countless human workers and the planet in general, so you could use your money more wisely. Maybe buy a copy of Steel Bars, Sacred Waters for a prisoner with no income?

Ilurbeda: Celtic Iberian Goddess of the gold mine

Armi Dee
2 Salmon by Armi Dee

In this post I attempt to present the information relevant for Pagans in the paper The Hispano-Celtic Divinity ILVRBEDA, Gold Mining in Western Hispania and the Syntactic Context of Celtiberian arkatobezom ‘Silver Mine’ by Blanca-Maria Prosper (the incredibly prolific – and my favorite – scholar on Celtic Iberian deities). Prosper is at the forefront of Hispanic Celtic linguistics and is known for revisiting the original stone and metal inscriptions others take for granted. Her work, for example, has changed what we know about the Apollo epitaph Belenus which is only found in one city, and was wrongly identified with a completely different God by scholars who did not go to the original inscriptions and altars. This news sadly does not seem to have reached most Pagans, who are studying out dated academic or pop culture books. If we want to truly know our deities, we should at least use Their correct names and other accurate information available to us. I hope to continue to make much this new knowledge available here.

That’s a reason for this blog. The most common complaint of Celtic polytheists is that they can’t find reliable information about Gaulish deities (including the ones brought to Britain) and none of those from Iberia. Steel Bars, Sacred Waters covers about 160 deities and more are still being recovered. Especially for Iberian Celtic studies or the Celto-Germanic connection, this is a very exciting time! It’s interesting to me that recently Gullveig Press has been fulfilling requests mostly from Hispanic incarcerated Pagans for the book lately. It’s their European polytheist ancestors’ deities and religion, which most white supremacist groups forget. I don’t believe ethnicity has anything to do with which deities you are meant to worship, but it’s true that many Pagans are seeking their ancestral pre-Christian indigenous religion. I once had online discussions with a young Portuguese man who hated Portugal because he never learned it had tribal peoples like the Britons or the Norse. His internalized … not racism, but something similar, was very sad. The first inscription to Lugus – Lugh is written in a 6th century Celtic language using Phoenician letters at the farthest southwest corner of Portugal, beyond the Straight of Gibraltar.

The Iberian peninsula was a rich source of metals in the Bronze Age, the Celtic Iron Age and for the Roman Empire. With mining being so important to these peoples (and, indeed, other Celtic peoples and just any culture economically dependent upon mining), it would make sense that there would be deities of these mines. Whether the salt mines in Hallstatt or the tin of Cornwall, Celtic peoples would have been both grateful for the wealth and terrified of dying in the tunnels. Skeletons from Hallstatt show that men had great upper body strength but comparatively weak legs from their work in the mines. The women tended to have lopsided shoulder strength from hauling bags of ore. I had to think through the Goddess Domnu of Cornwall “Goddess of the deep” until the practical needs of the Celtic Cornish miners hit me. Humans are logical. They pray to the deities who are most connected to their identity, which often is their tribal ways, the fertility/protection of the land, their vocation or, as with pregnancy and childbirth, a specific function. Deities of mining, another way the Bronze and Iron Age peoples unknowingly destroyed their ecosystems (the main being clear cutting for farm land), would have to be necessary.

Iberia had a large amount of votive altars dedicated to the Goddess Ilurbeda. Her cult seems to have started in the northern Vetton region, especially the mines in Salamanca. A previous theory was that Her name meant “city of Beda” but there is no known city called Ilurbeda. Also Her altars are found along the Western facade and in a bigger region of central Iberia, particularly between the Ebro and Tejo Valleys. In the west, She’s named with a diversity of local Celtic and Lustianian deities. The rest are often in Celtiberian. There actually are not very many altars or deity names recovered in the Celtiberian region aside from Lugus and Epona. The reason why is not known, but Ilurbeda must have been very important. Strangely, Ilurbeda is (so far) unknown in the neighboring land of the Astures where thousands worked in mines that are now tourist attractions.

The root word *bedo is Celtic for “quarry, mine.” Two Portuguese inscriptions to Ilurbeda were recently found in a gold quarry in Coinbra. Ilurbeda IS Herself the mine, specifically the gold mine. She’s who you sacrificed to when asking Her to share Her riches. She is who you sacrificed to when asking to survive working in the mine. Most likely, there were great community rituals in Ilurbeda’s honor. When the Romans conquered Iberia, they organized the northwestern mines so all free people had to work some time in the mines to help pay the community taxes.

Finding a Celtic word for gold was difficult, as the Gauls adopted the Latin aurum. We have *arganto– for silver; *kanto– for stone and marble; *cassi– for bronze and copper; *isarno– for iron; and a root word for lead. The word “silver” is actually a loan word probably from a Semetic language. The Celtiberians used the word “silaber” for “coins.” They did not mint their own coins and silaber did not refer to silver ore. It was money. *arganto is known as the root word for silver, with three examples being Welsh arian(t), Breton argant, and the name of the Caledonian chieftain Argenticox (“silver limbed”).

A Celtic word for gold, however, was previously unknown. Prosper looks to the Indo-European and Indo-Iranian root word *geluos meaning “yellow” which became the root for gold in many languages, including English. Once Prosper did all the fancy linguistic changes of the Celtic languages, the root word for gold is *iluro-.

Ilurbeda had at least two other functions that helped humans besides being the source of gold. She protected the ore as it moved through the dangerous mountain paths to the east. An altar in Avila connects Her with the protective Roman Lares Viales. Two portable altars of Ilurbeda, good for wagons, were recovered west of the Vetton area. A Celtiberian bronze tablet from the 2nd century CE reads: “For the transportation of the ore along the way of…, leading to Cortonum, let the silver mine be cleared, both in the open air and in covered area. The magistrate has decreed in Cortonum.” This reminds us of the actual daily work and risks involved with this industry which made Iberia (and Gaul) so attractive to the Romans.

Ilurbeda also appears to have had a role in guiding immigrants to find work in the mines. They came not from the south, but from Callaeci from the northwest and from Uxamenses and Clunienses from the east in Celtiberia. Dedications were made to the Goddess. Some of the altars for Ilurbeda in Lusitania seem to be from immigrants looking for jobs. Perhaps some were from the staff, not the actual miners, “asking her to open up and give away her rich secrets,” as Prosper eloquently puts it. The places in Lusitania with these altars coincide with where the gold mines were.

Ilurbeda Today

Today, when we know the human rights violations and ecological damage caused by the mining industry, we may wonder what role Ilurbeda plays. Obviously if you live in any of the regions of Spain or Portugal where She was worshiped or there were gold mines, you can form a deep relationship with Her as place. Perhaps anyone who lives where there were gold mines, like parts of California, may make Ilurbeda offerings and begin prayers, divination and meditations to build a relationship.

Mining for metals not only exploits workers and leaves a huge hole in the bioregion where indigenous flora, fauna and fungi existed in harmonious relationships which now are open for invasive species, it normally leaves deadly toxins in the soil and water. The death toll continues after the mining is done. Also Her mines are mostly empty. A good symbolic sacrifice to Her may be to bury something gold you already own. Show that you are ready to give back.

There’s a great debt we owe these deities. If anything, we should thank Her for Her generosity and explain that we, on behalf of our species, understand the deaths that occurred of many forms of life. We know that Her wealth was not ours to rip away. Our species had temporary insanity which has continued as the norm. We want to be part of the restoration and regeneration of the land, sea and sky upon which we completely depend. As “the rocks dancing” we know there’s no separation between our species and anything else that exists – including our deities. Will She provide guidance? She was there to help humans during one stage of our recent development. There’s no known reason why She would no longer desire a relationship with us.

I’m lucky in that I have always been allergic to all metal. My skin blisters, so I don’t have metal jewellery aside from a few gifts that are kept on my shrines. Like our relationship with crystals, something that was rare but today is a huge collector’s hobby among “spiritual” folks, we need to revisit how what we buy and how “Magick tools” we use affect those beyond us. The only paper I can tolerate has vegetable ink lines, 100% recycled paper and covers made powered by a water mill and recycled metal spiral bindings. I reuse the metal spiral bindings in art, twisting them into large willow trees with long roots. The company is ecojot in Canada and the Jumbo Journal is the perfect size and the sketch pads are great. Although it really is much more important that corporations recycle as they are responsible for the majority of waste, recycling at home and work can be a conscious spell, to build the “hundredth monkey” effect that tips the scales. Your recycling bin could be part of your altar to Ilurbeda.

Ilurbeda could be a protective deity for those who work in transportation. Mail carriers, bus drivers, artisans traveling from festival to festival, crafts fairs to crafts fairs, Ilurbeda watches over those who transport – or She might if you form a relationship with Her. Bicycles, buses, cars and trucks are made of metal. If we don’t ask Her if She wants to bless ways of saving gas like carpools, bicycles and buses, we won’t know how She feels about this. Obviously restoring, upcycling and taking care of our metal possessions is very important. As a child my father hammered used nails straight for his laborer grandfather from Ireland. The cast iron skillet was treated like the most precious object in existence. The family car usually was fixed/ built by my father, sometimes with holes in the floor, but everyone’s trash seemed to be his treasure. I’m very grateful for what the Depression and Dust Bowl taught my family and taught me.

Many people move from home in search of work. Ilorbeda heard those prayers for centuries and I imagine that She’d understand those prayers today. She may be the Goddess of immigration! She may be the bringer of wealth! Unless you honor Her you won’t know.

A lot of people are stuck in dangerous mining jobs. Limited opportunities and the need for food, shelter and clothing means that some places’ entire community is dependant on the mines. I think of the Welsh miners’ strike which lead to the British general strike of the 1970s and hope a deity like Ilurbeda was behind it. Someone has to protect the people who have no other options but to risk their lives in the mines that our society requires.

Does Ilurbeda take care of the working poor, the immigrants in the dangerous jobs no one else will do? I would say yes. Did she help keep my Uncle safe as he drove a delivery truck on the sidewalks of Manhattan, trying to get around double parked cars, treacherous terrain inbetween the towering skyscrapers? I think I’ll make an offering just in case She did.
Bibliography

Prosper, Blanca-Maria, The Hispano-Celtic Divinity ILVRBEDA, Gold Mining in Western Hispania and the Syntactic Context of Celtiberian arkatobezom ‘Silver Mine’, DIE SPRACHE 49,1 (2010/2011)

Pagan Holy Days February

Onje Keon Pierce "Oya"
Oya depicted by Onje Keon Pierce

It’s that time again, and February has a lot of festivals, so copy this list and mail it to your pen pal in prison! What? You don’t have a Pagan pen pal in prison who needs someone on the outside with whom to share information, friendship and humor? Why not? It’s so easy and does so much! The right fit may take a few pen pals, but with my guidance, you’ll be safe and prepared! Just start here and then use the category search for blog posts on Resources and Be an Ally to learn more. I get letters asking me about getting a Pagan volunteer in their prison like Buddhists do, and I have to say “I’m sorry; Pagans suck.” I literally write that. (I explain why, just like I do later in this post. Oddly, the most involved and generous Pagans are economically poor ones with disabilities and/or chronic diseases who have experienced loss and being a second class citizen.)

But you don’t have to go to a prison and do all that training – Any book, blog posts or photocopied articles will be shared with ALL the Pagans. You’re going to need to send $5 for them to buy stamps and paper especially if they’re in state prison, but I covered a better way here. (I’ve learned one important thing about prison: If you are going to do crime, make sure it is a federal offense. “Club Fed” offers more than other prisons. Meaning: Federal prison offers crumbs; state prisons offer nothing and private prisons don’t follow the U.S. Constitution! Yikes!)

Remember that your pen pal needs the Guide to the Athens, Julian and other calendars, plus the new moon (not dark moon) and full moon dates found here and here, where the Yoruban, Anglo-Saxon and Athens weekly and monthly calender are.

If you don’t have a penpal but want to help, we’ll happily send free copies of Steel Bars Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners to prisoners and books to prisoners organizations if you donate the money! Pagan books are in the Top Five Requested Books and hardest to fill. I know us Pagans; half of us border on hoarders and we joke about it. But you know those books you bought that aren’t resources you need or have no new information about a tradition you follow or are from a tradition you found on the search to your actual Pagan religion? There’s a books to prisoners organizations within 200 miles of most people and they’d love those books! Check out your closest one! Call your friends, post on social media that you are doing a Pagan-y book drive, and have folks donate to you. Then you put the books in a box or two and drop them off or mail media rate. Dictionaries and blank journals are also need! Heck, ANY soft cover book almost is needed! Literacy rates are low in prison and the average book is read by seven people! Prison, as one man told me, “is college, if you treat the time that way. You just have to keep getting books, because there’s no classes or training in state prison.”

I think that those of us on the outside are outnumbered by incarcerated Pagans. If you do the math (1 in 100 Americans are in prison – more of the population than any other nation in the world – and 8-12% of them claim a Pagan religion), there’s 1 incarcerated Pagan for every 1,000 Americans! That’s one reason why I think we suck at prison outreach (we’re outnumbered) – The other being that most books, especially Wiccan or Ceremonial Magick, never mention giving to the deities or the world, just taking, and polytheists like Christians would rather donate money more than time to their deities or own “faith community”, so “community service ministry” never reaches the minds of most solitary Pagans, which most of us are. The last reason – the depressing one – is the pettiness of cliques and organizations who won’t work together. Even though tons of Pagans in theory want to do something for people who have nothing in their religion, they put human B.S. first. (That’s why it’s so easy to do it your way – who can say you’re wrong? It’s not the Internet – you’ll be respected and treated well and your opinions valued!) And, yeah, I explain all this after “Pagans suck.” Look, in all the Pagan books you’ve read, how many ever suggested service offerings or ministry to those who can’t pay? Almost none. And I ask these prisoners if they were doing anything positive for strangers when outside? Well, hey, then you know what people on the outside are like, dude.)

If you are scared that you don’t know enough about Paganism to be a resource or guide style pen pal, don’t worry. You have blogs you can copy and paste in narrow margins using the font that takes the least space to make cheap “newsletters.” You can send 4¢ photos of deities, altars and shrines found online. Prison is very visually boring and people study photos together. Art pix are also really popular.

You have access to so much! And you might change someone’s life by caring. A lot of people want someone to care about and my severe illnesses bring that out in the pen pals that want to be allies and get over self pity – i.e. the types of people I value.

On with February!

The Anglo-Saxon month that roughly corresponds with February was called “Sun month” although another source has it called “kale month.” Kale is a very nutritious green which grows successfully in cold climates. “Sun month” obviously refers to the lengthening of the days.

February is named for God Februus of purification. In the earliest Roman calendar, the new year began on March 1, so February originally was for cleansing away the impurities of the last year.

On February 1 the sacred grove of Helernus, Roman God of vegetables, was filled with devotees. As Priests made sacrifices, the public prayed for a good vegetable crop.

Juno Sospita, Goddess of Protection and Fertility, wore goat skin with the head and horns as a helmet. Accompanied by a crow or raven (scavenger birds of the battlefield) or snake, Juno Sospita held a spear and sword. In Her home town Lanuvium on February 1 virgins were blindfolded and led out of town to Juno’s grove. The girls brought barley cakes to feed Juno’s sacred snake. When the snake ate, the town knew that the land and humans would be fertile.

Imbloc is the Gaelic day honoring hearth Goddess Brig. Being cold in Ireland and Scotland, it was a household ritual, focusing on gratitude for longer days and milk from ewes (female sheep) giving birth.

In medieval England ewes still gave birth in early February, celebrated as Ewemeole. Food reserves were low and harvests weren’t for many months, so the milk was vital for survival.

9 days after the full moon of the lunar month in January-February, the Diasi, the largest festival of sky father Zeus, was held in Athens. Pastries shaped like pigs and sheep were offered by the entire population.

Around this time, those people preparing for initiation in the Eleusinian Mysteries spent at least 3 days doing the Mysteries at Agrai, or the Lesser Mysteries.

February 5 is the Roman Februalia, honoring Februus. The home was thoroughly cleaned, then a Priest or member of the household banished anything that might bring harm. Salt and grain were sprinkled around the home. As the mixture was swept outside with a pine bough, the bad spirits were also swept away.

From February 5 to 17 Romans honored Fornax, Goddess of the Ovens, with the Fornacalia. The communal feast was simple, with Her wine offering given from ceramic jugs, not expensive metals. Fornax protected the home from oven fires and the bread from burning. In the past families shared a communal oven, which is the root of the Fornacalia celebration.

The old Swedish month Goe was in our February and March. For one week in Goe, Sweden had its annual Thing of All Swedes (like a parliamentary meeting but all free men were allowed to attend). Along with political and legal affairs, the Thing hosted a great market called The Disting and a Disirblot to honor female ancestors and other powerful women/Goddesses. Offerings for peace were made at the Great Temple in Uppsala.

The 9th is sacred to the Orisha Oya.

February 13 (or the full moon) is the Roman Festival for Faunus, rural God of the wild woodlands. His name means “Kindly One” and He looked after the lonely shepherd. Hunters and farmers also honored Him.

On February 13 the city of Rome was purified by the Amburbium. Chanting and making sacrifices, a procession of solemn worshipers circled the city’s boundaries.

The 6th day of the February-March month of Athens is dedicated to Artemis Elaphebolios (“Shooter of the Deer”).

2 days later Asklepios, the demi-God of healing, was honored in Athens. The Dionysia also began and continued for 6 days. Singing boys and a wooden statue of Dionysus, God of vines, were part of a procession, celebrating His liberation from winter. People went to the theatres for 3 days, enjoying comedies and tragedies.

February 17 was the Quirinalia, a Roman festival celebrating the ancient Sabine (an Italian people) God Quirinus. The Sabines had a fortified settlement near Rome, the Quirinal, named after Quirinus. The settlement was absorbed by Rome and Quirinus joined Jupiter and Mars as Gods of the Roman state. Depicted as a bearded man in the clothes of a Priest and soldier, His wife is Hora and His plant is myrtle.

Parentalia, Rome’s private rites to appease the dead, was held from February 13 to 21. Temples were closed, marriage was not allowed and no altar fires burned. A Vestal Virgin started the Parentalia by pouring a libation to the dead. Families gathered at the family tomb to perform private rituals of offerings. Ovid guides us: “The Dark Shades seek little, they prefer devotion over a costly gift.”
The Feralia was the public end of the Parentalia, held February 21. The dead (“manes”) wandered around the cemetery, enjoying offerings left for them. Temples were still closed so people gave the manes all their attention.

The Feralia also honored God Jupiter Feretrius, the aspect of Jupiter that made certain oaths were kept. He witnessed the signing of contracts and marriages, with those involved asking that He strike them down should they break their vows.
A women’s ritual in honor of Tacita, the Roman Goddess of Silence, was lead by an older woman. The main part involved sewing the mouth of a small, dead fish closed, as the woman said, “We have bound tight hostile tongues and unfriendly mouths.”

After honoring the ancestors, the Cara Cognatio (Roman Festival of Caring Kin) honored the living family and household deities on February 22. Household deities received offerings and the family members made peace and prayed for harmonious relationships.

February 23 is the Roman Festival of Terminus, God of land boundaries.

On the 27th Rome held horse-racing festivals for was God Mars called the Equirria.