Tag Archives: rivers

river water

Adsalluta and Savus

This post exists because of a mistake. When I was researching my post on Sulis, I came across references to a goddess Adsullata, who seemed similar. She was from Central Europe, and I was a bit excited at the thought that maybe Sulis wasn’t alone after all.

Unfortunately, it turned out that Adsullata was Adsalluta. She and her partner, Savus, are unusual in that they are a divine couple who retained their native names, with no Roman overlay. (The Epigraph Databank has eight entries for Adsalluta, seven for Savus, but none for Adsullata.)

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The Salmon of Wisdom

You might wonder, why are salmon wise? Their ability to return to their birthplace to spawn may have given rise to the idea that they had special knowledge. Their travelling between salt and fresh water shows an adaptability most fish don’t have, and their jumping (immortalized in the Celtic warrior’s salmon leap) is impressive, and gives them their English name (from Latin salire, to jump).

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Fury and Intoxication: Dea Vercana and Meduna

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.

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Divona: the Divine

Imagine living in a world in which clean drinking water could not be taken for granted. Even now, in many parts of the world, people have to walk miles to get it, and in the Western World we aren’t immune from boil orders and other disruptions.

So it isn’t surprising that many peoples had a deity of fresh, drinkable water. The Romans had the god Fons, among others, from whom we get the word fountain, and the Celts in what is now Bordeaux showed their sense of priorites by worshipping a goddess of clear, drinkable water. Her name was Divona, the Divine One.

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Matrona: Mother Goddess

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.

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honeycomb bees

Nantosuelta: Domestic Goddess

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?

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Belisama: Most Brilliant

The Celtic goddess Belisama comes from the south of France, where two inscriptions, from different areas, suggest that her cult was fairly widespread. One of them is to the goddess herself, while the other calls her Minerva Belisama. The first is signficant, since it shows that her cult was from pre-Roman times.

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Rosmerta: not just a consort goddess.

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.

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