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.
Caesar’s campaigns in Gaul, Germany and Britain occasioned great excitement in Rome. For Catullus “the Gaulish Rhine, the formidable Britons, remotest of men” represented “the memorials of great Caesar” (Cat. 11.10-11). Cicero too considered Caesar’s exploits against the Britons the stuff of poetry (Q Fr. 2.16.14). The reading public must have been interested in what he had to say about his foreign adversaries.
The image at the top is from a bust of Caesar, in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. Wikimedia.
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?
Sucellos was a god of Eastern Gaul and the Rhineland. Images of him from the Roman period show a mature man dressed in a tunic, with a pot (olla) in one hand and a large hammer in the other. He sometimes has a barrel at his feet, and occasionally a dog accompanies him. The goddess Nantosuelta occasionally appears beside him. His name means “The Good Striker”.
In a world where the average woman was not expected to live beyond her 20’s, and death in childbirth was common, it is little wonder that one of the most widespread cults in the Celtic (and Romano-Celtic) world was that of the Nutrices – the protectors of maternity and motherhood.
Read more at balkancelts.wordpress.com
(Image from the Balkan Celts article)
Ritona is not a well-known goddess, considering that she is attested by six different inscriptions1 from four different parts of modern France and Germany. This means that three different tribes acknowledged her as a power. According to Deo Mercurio “she must rank as one of the most major ‘minor’ deities from northeastern Gaul.”
The Celtic god Maponos had followers on both sides of the Channel: he was also one of the most commonly invoked gods along Hadrian’s Wall. He was no war-god, however, but a youthful deity, a musician and hunter. In the Roman era he was often called Apollo Maponos, linking him to another god of youth and youths.
Ogmios is a vaguer deity than the Irish god Ogma. Most of what we know about him comes from the Roman writer Lucan, who called him Hercules and described him as a master of persuasion and rhetoric. One inscription seems to record a dedication to him in fulfillment of a vow, and two curse tablets invoke him.
The god who is willing to play a high price for justice, for the protection of his tribe, is found in many Indo-European religions. In the Irish pantheon we find Nuadhu, often known as Nuadhu Airgetlam (Silver Hand or Arm)…
The god Toutatis occupies a interesting place in the Gallic pantheon. His name, which means “of the tribe,” could equall well be a title, perhaps hiding another name. Against this, however, we have many artifacts, espeically rings, with his name on them, suggesting it was the commonly-used name for this god.
He is best-known from the Roman writer Lucan, who counts Taranis, Esus and Toutatis as notable for their desire for blood. (And presumably because they were major Gaulish gods.) Although it’s tempting to see them as a Gaulish answer to the Roman Jupiter, Mars and Quirinus, there’s no evidence to back this.