The Celtic peoples had many gods of war, if the number linked to Mars is anything to go by. They also had a lot of war-goddesses, whom we would expect to be associated with Minerva, Bellona or Victoria.
Surprisingly, goddesses paired with Victoria are pretty rare (I will look at Minerva in another post), although there are a few. There are also some native goddesses named “Victory”, all from modern France.
In my post on a possible birch goddess, I mentioned Dea Vercana. Since this goddess and her companion, Meduna, are so neglected, it seems mean not to pass on what I’ve learned about her.
Unfortunately, that’s not much. While it seems likely that she had a cult, even if only locally, all we know about her comes from the fountain bowl and altar inscribed with her name. The altar also mentions Meduna, who is as little-known as her companion.
We are used to the idea that the Celts took up Roman gods and equated them with their own. (Or that the invading Romans renamed them.) However, the process could just as easily go the other way.
The best-known instance of this is the Gaulish horse-goddess Epona, who became very popular first with the cavalry units of the Roman army, then with the Roman populace, who took her into their homes and stables. She was the only Celtic deity with a holiday in the Roman calendar: December 18th. The Romans don’t seem to have had an indigenous horse-deity (except perhaps Neptune, who had other things to attend to), but the Celts were horse-mad.
I have a tic; so many goddesses have been thrown into the “mother” category willy-nilly that I resist any description of a goddess as “mother”. (Also, I have noticed that people who lump goddesses together as “mothers” very often don’t consider the complexity of the title – Lotte Motz’ book The Faces of the Goddess discusses the many meanings of Mother.)
When a goddess’ name means Mother, however, you cannot deny it. It is derived from Mātr-on-ā, “Great Mother”, just like Sirona‘s and Damona‘s names mean the Great Star and the Great Cow. Inscriptions call her Dea Matrona, just to add insult to injury. There’s no way around this – she’s the Mother Goddess.
This post is a bit of a swizz – the name Rigantona is actually a hypothesis, a reconstruction by linguists of the origins of the name Rhiannon. There are no images, inscriptions or literary references to Rigantona.
There are, however, a few inscriptions to a goddess Rigana (whose name would be cognate to Latin Regina). Sometimes these goddesses are associated with Juno or Minerva (Jufer & Lughinbuhl: 13), other times they appear on their own.
Since the goddess Rosmerta often (not always) appears with the Roman god Mercury in both inscriptions and art, it is generally assumed that she is his consort, and the images that show her with his attributes indicate that he was the more powerful partner. There is a strong case to be made, however, for reading it the other way around.