There are two known gods of smithing in Gaul: Gobannos and Ucuetis. Now, it’s very possible that the two are the same god with different epithets… Gobannos literally means “smith” (though it can be derived further into other proto-Celtic roots), and Ucuetis may mean “great breath”—a reference to bellows—and was worshiped by the smiths of Alesia. Gobannos is also known as Cobannos, of the rich Cobannos Hoard now displayed at the Getty Villa in California, thanks to the rule where C and G became at one time interchangeable in Gaulish. Now please stay with me as I propose a third potential god of smithing: Sucellos. This is not a theory that I’ve seen widely upheld, but I think it likely for reasons put forth below.
Gaulish Alesia, the home of Ucuetis and Bergusia, was nearly lost to history entirely. After Julius Caesar’s military successes in Gaul, the Celtic tribes formed an alliance to push the Romans back, led by the Arverni chieftain Vercingetorix. At first the Gauls scored several victories against the Romans, but at Alesia the Roman army settled down to a seige which only ended when Vercingetorix surrendered.
After that Alesia became a Roman oppidum, and seems to have prospered, becoming famous for its metalworking. In the 5th century, after the Western Empire collapsed, the Gauls abandoned the town. Alesia’s location became a mystery, solved only in 1838 when an inscription, IN ALISIIA, was uncovered. Napoleon III ordered archaeologists to excavate around Mt. Auxois, confirming that Alise-sur-Reine, near Dijon, was Alesia.
Humans have been working with metal for a long time: from the Copper Age (approx. 3500 – 1700 BCE) when the soft, malleable metal was the first to be smelted and used. So it’s not surprising that many cultures have smith-gods, and that in the Celtic world the smith-god and his name occur in Gaul, Wales, England and Ireland, making him one of the few pan-Celtic deities.1
And a very literal one – Goibniu, Gofannon and Cobannos all mean “Smith”.
This blog has frequently lamented the demotion of Pluto. After being expelled from the company of planets, it now resides in the newly-named Plutoids, in the company of Eris, Sedna and other dwarf planets. Another one-time planet suffered a worse, and lonelier, fate one hundred years ago.
The planet Vulcan came into (theoretical) being as a solution to the problem of Mercury‘s orbit, which deviated from the track that Newton’s laws laid down for it. Continue reading →
There are many different ways to become god of the dead. You can win the job by chance (Hades/ Pluto), you can be cast into the underworld by other gods (Hel), marry into the job (Nergal), or you can be the first person to die.
Donn was one of the invaders known as the Milesians, after their father Mil. He was the warlike one, while his brother Armaigen was the poet/judge. They eventually did take Ireland, but not easily, and Donn never got to enjoy their victory.
The name Iðavöll appears twice in Völuspá, just after major cosmic events. The first, in stanza 7, follows the meeting of the Æsir where they portion out time, naming the parts of day, and the year. Stanza 6 tells us that the Æsir met at “the thrones of fate”, while 7 starts with them meeting at Iðavöll Plain, and unlike stanza 6, they physically create things, rather than just naming them.