Two stories about Apollo, one well-known and one obscure, focus on white ravens. Odin sent out ravens to learn what was going on in the world, but Apollo’s white ravens also brought messages to humans, as servants of the god of oracles. The one occasion when a raven brought him news ended very badly indeed. Continue reading
The Norse goddess Freyja and the valkyries, choosers of the slain, seem to have a lot in common. Both can take bird-form, are associated with war, magic and death, and take mortal protegés and lovers. Add that to the fact that she and Odin took half of all slain warriors each, and many have concluded that Freyja was the leader of the valkyries, the valkyrie goddess if you will.
Mercury, the travelling god, with his hat and staff and cloak, is easily compared to Odin, the god with the wide-brimmed hat, blue cloak, and staff or spear. Both seem to be able to travel through all the worlds, both are connected to the dead, and both are tricky to deal with. Both rely on their cleverness to get them out of sticky situations.
Although Hoenir was a companion to Odin and Loki, two well-publicized Norse gods, very little has survived about him, and he does not seem to have had cult places or worshippers.
Which is surprising in a way, because in Völuspá he is the one performing the old rites after the world is reborn, so you automatically think “priestly god”. Several scholars have decided that his role was in fact a priestly or vatic one, based on this.
Julius Caesar wrote that the Gauls believed they were descended from Dis Pater. In his writings, he did not give the local names for his deities, substituting ones his readers would recognize. (This was the interpretatio romana, giving foreign deities Roman names and attributes.)
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.
These Greek, Nordic and Celtic gods may not seem to have much in common at first glance, but they resemble each other in several ways, all of which illuminate aspects of their characters. All three are intellectual, associated with the arts, and have magical or oracular powers in addition to an unforgiving nature.
Nantosuelta was a Gaulish goddess, although traces of her worship have turned up in Germany, Luxembourg and Britain. She can be identified by the little house that she often carries, which looks like a birdhouse on the end of a long pole.
No other deity carries it, so we always know it’s her when we see it. No one really knows what it is supposed to represent – perhaps she was a goddess of home and hearth?