Tag Archives: obscure deities

Noreia: Celtic Goddess or Roman Invention?

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.

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Icovellauna

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.

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Fulla: goddess of secrets

Fulla is one of the lesser-known Norse goddesses, described in the Prose Edda as Frigga’s right-hand woman. (Closest comparison Ninshubur and Iris/Hebe?) Her name means “Bountiful”. She only appears in one myth, but we do know a few things about her, thanks mainly to Snorri Sturluson’s efforts to preserve pagan lore for poets.

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Hlin: Protector Goddess

Frigg was the Queen of Heaven, but she had many other goddesses around her, including several who functioned as her ladies-in-waiting. Fulla carried her casket and kept her secrets, Lofn sought her permission for unlawful lovers, and Hlin protected those that Frigg wanted to save.

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Ritona: goddess of the crossing

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.”

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Spring’s Victory: the Goddess Hretha

Two weeks ago I wrote about the goddess Eostre, who gave her name to the Easter festival. In Anglo-Saxon times, Eostre’s festival was in April, while March belonged to another goddess, Hretha.

If we know very little about Eostre, we know even less about Hretha. The only source we have for either of them is the Venerable Bede‘s book on the calendar, where he lists the names of the Anglo-Saxon months in England, with brief explanations of each name. I think you’ll agree his descriptions are terse:

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Alauna and Boudina: nurturer and warrior

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.

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The Smith and the Mountain: Ucuetis and Bergusia

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.

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Seshat: Mistress of the Books

The Egyptian goddess Seshat is one of the lesser-known Egyptian deities, and yet she was an enduring one. Her name means “Female Scribe” and the art of the scribe was her area: the burgeoning state of Egypt needed to keep records, formalize contracts and agreements, and make blueprints for buildings. This made her a useful deity, but also limited her cult, as we shall see.

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Morpheus and the dream gods

Neil Gaiman fans already know this, but Morpheus and his family were the spirits of dream, who sent dreams to mortals from their home in Erebos. This was a place, but also their father. (Having a personification for a parent can be confusing.)

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