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.
The title of this post might seem a bit catchall, but it was inspired by the goddess Alauna and Boudina, who appear together on a couple of altars in Romanized Germany, while the similarly-named Alounae seem to be mother-goddesses from modern Austria.
As with Dea Vecana and Meduna, another pair of Germanic goddesses, one is warlike, while the other is more peaceful. The name Boudina comes from the Celtic root boudi-, victory, while Alauna means either nourisher or wanderer.
One of the things everyone knows about Irish mythology is that the deities we all know (Brigit, the Dagda, Boand, Ogma, etc.) are all members of the Tuatha de Danann, the people or tribe of the goddess Danu.
However, none of the Irish sources mention this goddess, who was an important enough ancestor that her name identified all of her descendants. (Imagine if the Olympian gods of Greece were known as the Gaians, for example.) Some Celtic scholars have gone so far as to doubt the existence of any such deity. Why?
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.
The porch of an Anglican church might seem like a strange place to find an altar to a pagan goddess. In Lancaster, Co. Durham, however, a stone altar to the goddess Garmangabi coexisted with the established church.