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.
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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.
The goddesss Icovellauna’s cult extended across Gaul from Lorraine to the Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany, both in the valley of the Moselle river. We know her from six inscriptions, five from a holy well at Metz, and one from Trier.
Áine is the Celtic Goddess of love, the sun, fertility, water, summer and sovereignty. She is honored for her ability to grant abundance and fertility over the land. Being a Goddess of the sun Aine is said to have been given the nickname “bright”.
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Image by Bhupendra Shrestha from Pixabay
We’ve all wondered what god Julius Caesar meant when he said that Mercury was the most important of all Gaulish gods. He was right in one sense, and wrong in another – there are many Gaulish Mercuries, and they have many different functions.
The Irish god Lugh, we’re told, is one version of a pan-Celtic deity, called Llew in Wales and Lugos/Lugus in Gaul. Given that Lugh was such an important deity, and that Lugos could be the Celtic Mercury that Julius Caesar describes, you would expect Lugos to also be an important and well-attested god.
So it’s a bit of a shock to look up the Gaulish god Lugos/Lugos on the Epigraphik Datenbank and find no inscriptions matching his name. Why is Lugos so often assumed to be the Gaulish Mercury when there’s very little evidence for his worship in France?