Celtic goddesses went in for divine polyandry (multiple husbands) in a big way. For every Rosmerta or Nantosuelta who kept to one god, there were several like Damona and Ancamna who doubled or tripled up with Gaulish, Roman, or “blended” gods like Apollo Grannus or Mars Smertios. (While it is true that the Roman gods Mercury, Mars and Apollo take on different names and partners, they are the ones who take on Celtic by-names, while the goddesses keep their own.)
Apollo frequently appears with Sirona, either as himself or as Apollo Grannus. Since Grannus looks a lot like the Irish word grian, or sun, and Apollo had a solar aspect, it’s not hard to see him as a sun-god of the curative waters, following the Celtic pattern.
The derivation of Grannus is not that straightforward, however. Some derive it from the Indo-European root *granno– “beard”, but Apollo never has a beard in Classical and Celtic imagery. Marian Green has suggested that Grannus came from Grand, a center of Apollo’s cult. Recently the solar interpretation has crept back, with reference to the sun’s heat, and healing properties.
Various forms of Apollo, including Grannus, were commonly associated with eye cures, light, and healing water, as well as the soldier’s god Mithra, whose sun, moon and stars turn up on a stamp from Doubs, France. (Zeidler)
An inscription to Apollo Grannus Phoebus from Belgica shows that some, at least, saw Grannus as solar. Grannus also took the form Granus Mogounus Amarcolitanus, in an inscription from Lugodonium.
Another, from Maxima Sequanorum, is to Apollini Granno Mogouno. Amarcolitanus is probably a place-name, but Mogounus suggests the British-Gaulish god Mogons, whose name means something like “the Greatest”. Soldiers worshipped him, and there are many shrines to him around Hadrian’s Wall in England.
Apollo Grannus is famed for two things: the emperor Caracalla unsuccessfully sought a cure at his shrine, and in Limoges, a festival of 10 nights was held in his honour.
We know Atesmertius mainly from an inscription on the base of a statue of Mars. His name comes from *ate– smerto, “Good Provider””, like Rosmerta. He was also assimilated to Mercury and Apollo (AE 1984: 641), but his connection with Sirona comes from a pair of statues found at Le Mans, each dedicated by Sextus Amelius Natalis and a few others. (The inscription on the base of her statue calls her Serona Sivellia, the only use of that title.)
When I began researching Sirona, Borvo kept being mentioned as a possible consort or even son of Sirona. (MacKillop) I haven’t been able to find any direct evidence that they were a pair, either as an inscription or an image.
Borvo, in fact, usually teamed up with Damona. Those who follow Olmstead in translating Sirona as “Great Heifer” would argue that the two goddesses had the same function, and so should have similar consorts.
Both Grannus and Borvo took on the form of Apollo, so that would also link them. However, until I see some direct evidence of Sirona and Borvo being paired, all I can say is that both were associated with healing waters.
This healing god teamed up with Sirona at healing shrines; the connection isn’t hard to see. However, they were not a divine couple in the usual sense, and I will discuss the pair in my next post, which looks at Sirona and how she fit into the healing family of Apollo, Asclepius and his daughter Hygeia.
Green, Miranda 1995: Celtic Goddesses: Warriors, Virgins and Mothers, British Museum Press.
MacKillop, James 2004: A Dictoinary of Celtic Mythology, OUP.
Zeidler, Jürgen 2003: “On the etymology of Grannus”, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 53 (1) – Apr 30, 2003: 77-93.
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