My post on the Irish goddess Airmid provoked a discussion on whether the Tuatha de Danann were really deities, or just heroic individuals. The answer, of course, depends on who you ask.
There are some intriguing deities on Hadrian’s Wall. Some might have been ‘born’ or ‘re-born’ when incomers from foreign lands, trying to make sense of their new situation, created brand new ‘gods of place’. The enigmatic Veteres are possible candidates here. 61 altars to a god called Veteris (or to gods called the Veteres) have been found in Britain, with the great majority coming from the wall zone, including 13 from Carvoran and 11 from Vindolanda.
Image by David Mark from Pixabay
The Roman Empire was never shy about adopting deities from other lands. Isis, Mithra, Cybele all became wildly popular, perhaps because their cults were different from the staid Roman deities. All three of these cults came to Rome, but others had the Romans come to them.
One thing that’s always puzzled me about the theory that Indo-European languages are a guide to the mythologies of the peoples who speak them is the reluctance to take up the question of Diana and other “Divine” goddesses. After all, if *Dyéus is the sky-father, are Diana, Divona, Dione and Divuša sky-mothers?
Silvanus was a popular god in Rome, up there with Jupiter and Mercury in terms of altars and other devotional evidence. As a god of the common people, he had a large audience, and soldiers, slaves and freedmen to spread his cult abroad.
His popularity worked both ways, too: a British craftsman explained his god Callirius as Silvanus, and many of the other examples in this post could have worked the same way.
I know I tend to write about goddesses more than gods, but the slightly mysterious god Condatis has a special place in my heart, because I used to live in Durham. He seems to be a local god, with three altars dedicated to him dotted around the county. A further one was recently unearthed in Cramond, Scotland.
It’s a well known fact that the Celts – and later the early Christians – in Ireland were extraordinarily creative people, regularly expressing their philosophies, beliefs and histories through art. At first this was done through stone carving, metalwork and most likely wood. Celtic society revolved around the concepts of war and wealth, so they spent much of their time creating intricately decorated weapons and jewellery from bronze and gold, to show off their fighting prowess and status in society. They were also a highly spiritual society with an astronomical and seasonal calendar, various ritualistic festivals throughout the year, and revered burial practices. At sites where these ceremonies took place stone monuments were very common and often featured elaborate carvings, sculptures and the like.
And here for the image at the top
The goddess Litavis or Litavi presents us with a dilemma. If we follow the etymology, her name connects to the Hindu earth-goddess Prithivi, and means something like ‘the Vast One, the Broad One’. On the other hand, the Romans may have equated her to Bellona, the fierce companion of Mars.
The Austrian goddess Noreia, like the British goddess Brigantia, has always been dogged by the suspicion that she was a Roman invention rather than a native deity. They both share their name with a Roman province, and worshippers with Roman or Romanized names made offerings to them.