Bricta, whose name means something like “Highest”, is a Gaulish goddess, whose cult centre seems to have been Luxeuil in France, where she was worshipped with the god Luxovius. Luxeuil, or Luxovium, has always been rich in thermal and other springs, which were associated with healing from early times. Like the British shrine at Bath, there are mineral springs and some which are rich in iron. (The water at Bath is so full of iron as to be almost undrinkable.)
Dedications to Bricta/Brixta and Luxovius have been found there, as well as many votive statuettes. (Some suppliants seem to have given the credit to other deities, as dedications to Sirona and Apollo have also been found there.) There is also a statue of Jupiter on horseback, riding down a serpent. (I wonder if this has anything to do with the altar of Solimara with the horse and fish/serpent.)
Bricta and Luxovius are recorded in the following inscriptions from Luxeuil-les-Bains :
- [Lus]soio / et Brictae / Divixti/us Cons/tans / v(otum) s(olvit) <l=t>(ibens) m(erito)
- “To Lusso(v)ios and Bricta, Divixtius Constans freely and deservedly fulfilled his vow.” (CIL 13, 05425)
- Luxovio / et Brixtae / G(aius) Iul(ius) Fir/manus / v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito)
- “To Luxovios and Brixta, Gaius Julius Firmans freely and deservedly fulfilled his vow.”
(AE 1951, 00231; CIL 13, 05426)
The pair have a distinguished lineage; Bricta is often assumed to be similar to Brigit, both sharing the brig– element meaning “high or lofty”, while Luxovius is sometimes assumed to be a local version of the Irish god Lugh, from the root *leuk, light. (Olmstead (365) suggests a similar meaning for Bricta, from *bhrēk- “to shine”.)
It should be noted, however, that other people think that Brixta comes from brixtom or brixta meaning a curse. This would tie Brixta in with Sul, whose temple had a large hoard of curse tablets in it, mostly calling down divine wrath on thieves, but also rivals in love.
Four similar lead tablets have been found calling on Bricta or Brixta, one from Chamalières, and three times on one from Larzac. (Koch: 283) They follow a formula close to an Irish one, se-bnanom bricto “the spells of these women” or Irish brichtu ban, “women’s spells”. This would indicate a rather dark side to Bricta. (Just check out these ancient curses, which desire the death of a rival charioteer.)
It is hard to know, from so little evidence, if Bricta was a sun or fire goddess, although the latter seems likely. I think that she was a goddess of the fire within the earth as much as in the sky, like Sul. As the all-seeing sun, she would be able to see wrongdoing, and as the fire she would be able to avenge it. The fire aspect would fit with her being a Celtic Minerva, like Brigit and Sul, who also had fire-cults and healing water.
She would not be the only solar deity to have a vengeful side – think of Apollo, who could cause and cure disease. Like him, she (and Sul) could both cure disease and punish wrongdoers or those who offended them. It is an aspect of deity that we post-Christians have some trouble with, although the impulses that led to curse tablets are still with us.
Green, Miranda 1992: Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend, Thames and Hudson.
Koch, John 2006: Celtic Culture – a Historical Encyclopedia, ABC-Clio (from Google).
McCrickard, Janet 1990: Eclipse of the Sun, Gothic Image.
Olmstead, Garrrett 1994: The Gods of the Celts and Indo-Europeans, Verlag des Instituts für Sprachwissenschaft der Universität Innsbruck.
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