Goddesses in Celtic Religion: Territorial and War Goddesses

The Morrigan is the goddess of war, battle, strife, and fertility in Celtic mythology. Most notably in Ireland, but also in other parts of Europe. / Wikimedia Commons

By Dr. Noémie Beck / 12.04.2009
Professor of Irish Studies
Concordia University


Nature definitely had a sacred dimension for the Celts, who revered it in the form of gods and goddesses. Those land-goddesses were respected and honoured for ensuring fertility and providing the people with food. Jullian says “it was easy at the beginning to believe that the surface of the earth was shared among a certain amount of domains each with its own god […]. Towns and other circumscribed areas of land were under the protection of a god”.1229 Irish mythology indeed indicates that land-goddesses became attached to distinct territories and were revered with different names according to the peoples and places. These ‘territorial’ goddesses would have been endowed with a potent role of sovereign, representing, protecting and presiding over the tribe, while sustaining its members and guaranteeing prosperity to the province. Is there proof of such territorial- or tribal-goddesses in Britain and on the Continent? In view of Irish mythology what might have their roles been? Which functions may have been attached to them?

Protection of the territory is patently linked to war. It seems that the goddess presiding over the land and the tribe was, at some stage, given martial attributes to protect the territory and its inhabitants against invaders and enemies. In other words, it seems that the land-, territorial- or tribal-goddess was turned into a war-goddess, invoked for her protective and defensive qualities in time of conflict. As will be seen, various goddesses, such as the Irish Mórrígain and the British Brigantia, possess the double aspect of land and protection in their character. They were originally goddesses embodying the landscape and were later attributed significant war-like attributes and pictured protecting their people and territory.

War was a favourite avocation of the Celts, as Strabo explains in his late 1st-century BC or early 1st-century AD Geography:

‘The whole race which is now called both ‘Gallic’ and ‘Galatic’ is war-mad, and both high-spirited and quick for battle, although otherwise simple and not ill-mannered. And therefore, if roused, they come together all at once for the struggle, both openly and without circumspection […]1230

War and religion were closely connected. In De Bello Gallico, Caesar says “The nation of all the Gauls is extremely devoted to superstitious rites” (Natio est omnis Gallorum admodum dedita religionibus), which means that Celtic people had recourse to the gods and religion for every single aspect of their lives: agriculture, home and family, medicine, etc.1231 War was was surrounded by rites and traditions of various kinds occurring before, during and after the battle, such as the ‘armed council’ taking place before the fighting, the ‘vow’ made to a war deity to obtain victory in exchange for which spoils of war would be offered, and the devotio, a rite in which a leader appealed to the underground deities and offered his life to have his army saved.1232 In short, Gaulish warriors left destiny in the hands of the gods.

The Irish texts tell of powerful and obscure goddesses of war, spreading terror in the hearts of the most valorous warriors, flying around the battlefield in the shape of ravens and eating the flesh of the dead combatants. Did those preternatural ladies take part directly in combat? If not what role in war did they fulfil? As regards Britain and Gaul, is there literary, iconographical, epigraphic or archaeological evidence of beliefs in crow-shaped war-goddesses? In comparison with Ireland, it seems that material providing proof of a cult devoted to protective and martial goddesses in Britain and Gaul is scattered and fragmentary. Considering the Gallo-British archaeological and linguistic data and what Irish mythology tells us, is it possible to reconstruct some myths concerning Celtic divine warrioresses? What was their essence? Which functions might they have embodied and fulfilled?

Tribal or Territorial Goddesses: Protection and Sovereignty

The Celts lived in large communities or tribes – called civitates* or nationes by the Roman historians – led by a chief, for instance Ambiorix, leader of the Eburones, or Ambigatos, king of the Bituriges. There were around sixty different peoples in Gaul, not counting the unrecorded septs* and the tribes of Narbonnensis, around twenty in Ireland and about thirty in Britain.1233 Those septs* shared cultural and religious ideas and were linked by economic ties, but they did not form a political entity or a homogenous whole. The tribes lived on a territory delimited by frontiers which were generally natural, such as a river, a forest, a mountain, etc. Gaulish and British epigraphy reveals that names of single goddesses or epithets of Matres, Matronae are ethnonyms*, i.e. names of tribes, which tends to prove that the Celtic peoples venerated goddesses bearing the name of their sept*. As noted in Chapter 1, the tradition of ‘tribal-goddesses’ was also part of the beliefs of the Germanic peoples, for a significant number of Matres, Matronae, bearing ethnonymic* bynames* are known. For example, the Matronae Hamavehae are the Mother Goddesses of the sept* of the Chamavi the Matres Kannanefates of the Cananefates; the Matronae Vanginehae and the Matres Vagionae of the Vangiones; the Matres Suebae of the Suebi; the Matres Frisavae of the Frisiavi, and the Matres/Matronae Cantrusteihae (Andrustehiae) of the Condrusi.1234 What evidence of tribal-goddesses in Britain and Gaul is there, who were they and what were their nature and functions?

Gallo-British Ethnonyms*

In the north-east of Gaul, several names of goddesses refer to Celtic and sometimes Germanic tribes. In Bavay, a small town situated between Valenciennes and Maubeuge (Nord), an inscription dedicated to collective goddesses called Nervinae was for instance discovered: Nervinis C(aius) Iul(ius) Tertius vslm, ‘To the Nervinae, Caius Iulius Tertius paid his vow willingly and deservedly’.1235 The dedicator bears Latin names and the tria nomina of Roman citizens. On account of their name and the place of discovery of the dedication, the Nervinae may be the eponymous goddesses of the Nervii, one of the most powerful Belgic tribes inhabiting the area between the River Sambre and the River Escault and neighbouring the Eburones, the Atrebates, the Viromandui and the Ambiani.1236

Similarly, an inscription found in Cologne (Germany Inferior) metions the Matres Remae: Matrib(us) Remis Bitorius Bellicus, ‘To the Mother Goddesses Remae Bitorius Bellicus’.1237Interestingly, the dedicator bears two Latinized names of Celtic origin: Bitorius, based on bitu-, biti-, bito-, ‘world’, and Bellicus, derived from beli-, belli-, belo-, bello-, ‘strong’, ‘powerful’.1238 The Matres Remae have an epithet referring to the name of the tribe of the Remi (‘The First Ones’, ‘The Most Ancient Ones’ or ‘the Princes’ (<* prei-mo-i)), who were located in present-day Champagne-Ardennes, in the north-east of France.1239 They may thus be understood as the ‘Mother Goddesses of the tribe of the Remae’.

The Matres Treverae, venerated in Birten, in the territory of the Cugerni (Germany Inferior), are undoubtedly the Mother Goddesses of the tribe of the Treveri, whose name might mean ‘guides’, ‘directors’, that is ‘those who help crossing the river, maybe the Moselle’.1240 The Treveri were a powerful sept* located in modern-day Luxembourg and its environs. The inscription is the following: Matribus Treveris T. Paternius Perpetus Cornicular Leg(io) XXX VSLM, ‘To the Matres Treverae, T. Paternius Perpetus Cornicular Legion XXX paid his vow willingly and deservedly’.1241 The dedicator has Latin names and is a soldier in the legion* XXX of the Roman army.

The instance of the Matres Nemetiales, mentioned in an inscription, probably dating from the 2nd c. AD, discovered in 1822 in the cemetery of the ancient church of Saint-Jean, in Grenoble (Isère), is less probable but worth mentioning though: Matris Nemetiali(bus?) Lucretia […] Q(uinti) Lib(erta) VM, ‘To the Matres Nemetiales (or to the Matres and to Nemetialis) Lucretia […] freed from Quintus […]’ (fig. 1).1242 Their epithet could be related to the Nemetes, a tribe probably of Germanic origin, who neighboured the Vangiones and the Triboci in Germania in the first half of the 1st c. BC.1243 It may also be the case of the goddess Nemetona, honoured in five inscriptions from Trier, in the sanctuary of the Altbachtal: Mart[i et] Nem[etonae] SCPE[, ‘To Mars and Nemetona […]’,1244 Ne]met[onae (?), ‘To Nemetona’;1245 in Klein-Winternheim, near Mainz (Germania Superior): Nemeton(ae) v.s.l.m., ‘To Nemetona (the dedicator) paid his vow willingly and deservedly’;1246 in Altrip (Germania Superior): Marti et Nemetonae Silvini Iustus et Dubitatus vsll p(osuerunt), ‘To Mars and Nemetona Silvinus Iustus and Dubitatus paid their vow willingly and deservedly’;1247 and Bath (GB): Peregrinus Secundi fil(ius) civis Trever Loucetio Marti et Nemetona v.s.l.m., ‘Peregrinus, son of Secundus, a Treveran, to Loucetius Mars and Nemetona willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow’ (fig. 1).1248 The ethnonym* Nemetes and the divine names or epithets Nemetona and Nemetiales must be derived from Gaulish nemeton signifying ‘sanctuary’ or ‘sacred grove’.1249 The Matres Nemetiales can therefore be understood as ‘The Mothers of the Sacred Grove or Enclosure’ and Nemetona ‘Sacred Grove’ or ‘Sanctuary’.1250 The distribution of the dedications to Nemetona and to the Matres Nemetiales – in the dedication from Bath, the dedicator specifies he is from the city of the Treveri – tends to prove that they were the tribal-goddesses of the Nemetes. Nonetheless, the idea of a goddess embodying the nemeton (‘sanctuary’ or ‘grove’) remains quite possible and should not be dismissed.

As for the Matres/Matronae Senonae, honoured in Metz (Mozelle) and Boeckingen (Germany): Seno(nibus) Matro(nis) coh(ors) I Helvet(iorum) […] v.s.l.m., ‘To the Matronae Senonae Cohort I of Helvetia […] paid the vow willingly and deservedly’,1251 these are etymologically linked to the tribe of the Senones (‘The Old Ones’, from Gaulish seno, ‘old’), settled in the present-day region of the Sénonnais (France), that is the départements of Yonne, Aube, Seine-et-Marne and Côte d’Or.1252 In Gallo-Roman times, Sens, which is reminiscent of their name, was their capital under the name of Agendicum.

Fig. 1: Left: Altar dedicated to Loucetius Mars and Nemetona from Bath (GB). In the Roman Baths Museum. RIB 140. Right: Altar dedicated to the Matres Nemetiales from Grenoble (Isère). In the Musée dauphinois, Grenoble. ILN V.2, n° 360, pp. 65-66.

It is worth noting that the byname* Mattiaca given to Diana in the inscription from Wiesbaden (Germany),1253 may have been either a descriptive epithet of her character, that is Diana ‘the Favourable’, or of her function Diana the ‘Bear’, or an ethnonymic* epithet referring the Mattiaci (‘The Good People?’), a sept* of probably Germanic origin, which inhabited the area of today Wiesbaden, the southern Taunus mountain range and the tract of Wetterau, on the right side of the Rhine, between the tribes of the Cugerni and Chatti.1254As the dedication was found in Wiesbaden, it is highly likely that this Diana Mattiaca is to be understood as the ‘Diana belonging to the tribe of the Mattiaci’, that is the Diana who protects and presides over them.

As for the Matronae Gesahenae, venerated in Roedingen, Bettenhofen, Deutz and Cologne (Germany)1255 and the Matronae Gesationum, mentioned in an inscription from Iülich (Germany),1256 they might be related to the Gaulish tribe of the Gaesati (‘Armed with Spears’ or ‘Lancers’), who were settled along the Rhône, but this remains a hypothesis.1257

Similarly, on account of their name, the Matres Eburnicae, venerated in Yvours-sur-le-Rhône (Rhône),1258 may have come from the name of the Eburones, who were settled in the area north of the Ardennes, between the Meuse and the Rhine, north of the Atuatuci.1259 This hypothesis howver implies a linguistic transformation Eburonikā > Eburnikā, and as the inscription was found far away from the area of settlement of the Eburones, it is difficult to affirm that the Eburnicae are ethnonymic* goddesses. They are more likely to be understood as devotees of the yew, a tree which, as we have seen, was sacred for the Celts.

In the south-east of Gaul, the Matronae Vediantiae, honoured in Cimiez (Nice, Alpes-Maritimes), are ‘the Mother Goddesses of the Vediantii’, a small sept* inhabiting along the coast between the mouth of the River Var and Monaco Bay to the east of Mont-Agel.1260 The two inscriptions mentioning the Mother Goddesses are the following: Matronis Vediantiabus P(ublius) Enistalius P(ubli) f(ilius), ‘To the Mother Goddesses Vediantiae, Publius Enistalius, son of Publius’ and [–deab]us Vedia[ntiabus–], ‘To the Goddesses Vediantiae’.1261 It is interesting to note that the first name of the dedicator, which he took from his Romanized father Publius, is Latin, while his second name Enistalius is Celtic.1262 This is indicative of his attachment to his indigenous roots and cults, all the more since he was from a place which had been under Roman influence for a long time. According to Barruol, those Mother Goddesses are “eponymous of the country and protectresses of its inhabitants”.1263

Another significant example is the goddess Dex(s)iva, known from four inscriptions discovered at the location of the 1.5-hectare oppidum* of the Castellar in Cadenet (Vaucluse). This oppidum* was occupied from the2nd c. BC to the 3rd c. AD and is regarded as the siege of the tribe of the Dexivates.1264 The first inscription was discovered before 1572 either in Pertuis or in Cadenet and is now lost: Dexsivae v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito) A(ulus) Com(inius) Suc(cessus), ‘To Dexsiva, Aulus Cominius Successus paid his vow willingly and deservedly’.1265 The dedicator bears Latin names and the tria nomina of Roman citizens. The second inscription, found in 1817 and now lost, was engraved on a plaque in tin or gold with a semi-circular top and two holes reading: D(onum) d(at) Quartus Mar(ti) securem D(onum) d(at) o(…) Dexsive Quartus securem v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito), ‘Quartus offers an axe to Mars. Quartus offers […] an axe to Dexsiva’ (fig. 2).1266 Her association with Mars in this dedication led her to be understood as his partner. This is however unlikely, the association being indirect and different from the usual dedications made to divine couples. According to Benoit, the axe she is offered is a symbol of protection in everyday life as well as in the afterlife.1267 The third inscription, engraved on a marble plaque, was found in 1773 together with treasure containing two vases in silver, coins, jewels and various objects:1268 Dexivae et Caudellensibus C(aius) Helvius Primus sedilia v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito), ‘Gaius Helvius Primus paid his vow willingly and deservedly to Dexiva and the Caudellenses in offering seats or benches’ (fig. 3).1269 Here Dexiva is honoured with collective deities, called Caudellenses, known by this single inscription, who are, in the words of Barruol, domestic goddesses “eponymous of a habitat”.1270 The fact that the dedicator offers seats or benches to the goddesses indicates the existence of a temple dedicated to them on the hill of the Castellar, for such benches were set up for the pilgrims to rest when they went to the temple to pray.1271 The last inscription, probably dating from the 1st or 2nd c., is engraved on a damaged altar: [D]exivae v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito) [.]ORARP[., ‘To Dexiva (…) paid his vow willingly and deservedly’ (fig. 2).1272 As Barruol argues, the goddess Dexiva is definitely to be related to the tribe of the Dexviates or Dexivates, mentioned by Pliny in Natural History, who inhabited the area between the Lubéron and the river Durance and had a sanctuary on the oppidum* of the Castellar.1273 In addition to the similarity in names, the inscriptions were all discovered on this site, which tends to prove that Dexiva was the protectress of this sept* and of their city. The name of the Dexivates and Dexiva may denote good fortune. They are based on an adjective deksiuo– meaning ‘southwards’ and ‘on the right, favourable’ in Celtic. According to Delamarre, Dexiva is ‘the one who is southwards or on the right’, i.e. ‘The Favourable One’.1274

Fig. 2: Left: Inscription offered by Quartus to the goddess Dexsiva, eponymous of the tribe of the Dexivates, discovered on the oppidum* of the Castellar, in Cadenet (Vaucluse). Right: Mutilated altar dedicated to Dexiva. Both are housed in the Musée Borely de Marseilles. ILN, III, n°221, 223.

Fig. 3: Inscription offered by Gaius Helvius Primus to Dexiva, from Cadenet (Vaucluse). In the Musée Borely de Marseilles. ILN, III, n°222.

The most illustrious example of a ‘tribal-goddess’ is certainly Brigantia, who, as her name indicates, is the eponymous goddess of the powerful tribe of the Brigantes. The fact that the seven inscriptions dedicated to her were discovered in the region inhabited by the Brigantes confirms that theory.1275 The inscriptions were indeed found in South West Yorkshire and in the area of Hadrian’s Wall and Ptolemy and Tacitus record that the Brigantes were situated in present-day Yorkshire and Northumbria.1276 Ó hÓgáin argues that the Brigantes might originally have been a branch of the Eburovices and took on a new name when they settled in the area of the Pennines, for their stronghold was called Eburacon (York).1277 It is also interesting to note that a mountain sept*, located in the Alps, in the present-day Briançonnais, bore the name of Brigianii.1278 Their name could indicate that they had blood ties with the Brigantes,1279 but it is more probably redolent of their mountain location, brig– referring to highness. Around 50 AD, the King of the Brigantes, Venutios, rebelled against the Roman invaders with a part of his people, while his wife, Queen Cartimandua, became allied with them. The Brigantes were eventually subjected to Roman authority by Petilius Cerialis between 71 and 74 AD.1280 The seven inscriptions dedicated to Brigantia are from around the end of the 2nd c. AD to the beginning of the 3rd c. AD, when the cult of this goddess was officially encouraged by the Romans (Severan Dynasty).1281 As we saw in Chapter 2, Brigantia is etymologically linked to Irish Brigit, which is not insignificant. The name and cult of this goddess may have been brought to Ireland by members of the Brigantes tribe, who crossed the sea to find new lands, probably already in Celtic times, and around the 1st c. AD, to escape from the Roman invasion and influence.1282 This is very likely, for Ptolemy, in his Geography, mentions a tribe of this name in South Wexford.1283 According to Ó hÓgáin, the septs* of the Lagini, situated in the east-centre of Ireland, and the Barreki, settled in the south-east, contained offshoots of the Brigantes.1284

From this, it follows that there are many examples of goddess eponymous of tribes in Britain and Gaul, the largest group coming from the north-east and south-east of Gaul. Dexiva of the Dexivates and Brigantia of the Brigantes are substantial instances of such cult. Apart from Brigantia, whose functions can be deduced from her equation with Roman goddesses and her iconography, the essence, attributes and roles of those Gaulish ‘tribal’ goddesses remain unclear, for they are known only by epigraphic evidence. The study of the Irish territorial-goddesses, patronesses respectively of a region and of a tribe, may cast new light on that question. They could be taken as an illustration and could give an interesting perspective to the subject.

Irish Sovereigns

Mythological accounts

Irish mythology illustrates that each province of Ireland, ruled by different peoples, was represented and presided over by a distinctive goddess: Medb Lethderg of the Laighin reigned over Leinster, Medb Cruachan of the Connachta protected Connacht, Macha of the Ulaid was the patroness of Ulster and Mór Muman of the Érainn ruled over Munster. In the various accounts which relate their adventures they are described as acceding to the throne or coupling with kings, which is evocative of their aspect of sovereignty.

Medb Lethderg (‘Half-Red’) presided over the province of Laighin (Leinster), which got its appelation from the name of the sept* of the Laighin, whose name derives from the Celtic lagini, ‘lance-men’, or leiquni, ‘casters’.1285 The Laighin was an alliance of several tribes, probably originating from Britanny and Britain, who gradually settled in present-day Leinster and parts of Connacht, from the end of the Bronze Age. The Laighin included among them branches of the Brigantes, arriving from Britain in or around the 1st c. AD, of the Gaileoin (‘javelin-jumpers’, from gaiso-lingi),1286 of the Bairrche (Celtic Barreki) and of the Domhnainn (Celtic Dumnoni). They merged with the Érainn people and seized Teamhair (Tara) from them around the 2nd c. AD, but lost it to the Connachta two centuries later.1287 Medb Lethderg presided over the celebrated royal site of Teamhair, the remains of which – a complex of forty monuments – were excavated on the hill overhanging the River Boyne between Navan and Dunshauglhin in Co. Meath (fig. 4).1288 The accounts insist on the impressive number of husbands she had and her role of sovereign. The Book of Leinster indeed indicates that she successively granted sovereignty to Cú Corb, Feidlimid Rechtaid, Art, and Cormarc Mac Airt by marrying them.1289

As for Medh Cruachan (‘Red-Skinned’), she is most certainly an emanation of Medb Lethderg and is also an emblematic figure of sovereignty.1290 An early 10th-century AD text, entitled Cath Boinde [‘The Battle of the Boyne’], recounts that she inherited the throne of Cruachain from her father and that she successively married five husbands: Conchobhar of Ulster, Fidech mac Féice, Tindi mac Con, Eochaid Dála and Ailill mac Máta.1291 The sept* of the Connachta, whose name signifies ‘Descendants of Conn’, took control of Teamhair (Tara) from the Laighin people in or about 400 AD.1292 They then destroyed Eamhain Mhacha, the royal centre of the Ulaid and settled in various parts of Ulster. A branch of the powerful Connachta took possession of the south-west province, originally called Ól nÉacmacht, which was from that time on called after them. In view of this information, it is clear that the cult of Medb, which was originally attached to Teamhair (Tara) and the Laighin, was adopted by the Connachta when they seized Teamhair. They brought her cult to Ulster, where groups of them settled after fighting the Ulaid. At this time, her worship was associated with that of the mythical Ulster king Fergus (‘Virility’) mac Róich (‘Son of Great Stallion’), who abandoned and fought against his own people for the love of Queen Medb in an abstruse 7th-century text entitled Conailla Medb Míchuru [‘Medb enjoined Evil Contracts’] and in the later epic story Táin Bó Cuailnge [‘The Cattle Raid of Cooley’].1293 When the Connachta settled in the south-west, probably around 600 AD, Medb was attached to Cruachain, their great fortress. The archaeological site of this fortress is at Rath Chrúachain (Rathcroghan), an impressive Iron Age mound belonging to a complex of around forty-nine monuments, situated to the north-west of the village of Tulsk, in the north of Co. Roscommon (fig. 4).1294 In Táin Bó Cuailnge [‘The Cattle Raid of Cooley’], Cruachain is the stronghold of Queen Medb and her husband Ailill. The legend recounts the raid launched by Medb on the Ulstermen to obtain the great bull of Cooley and echoes the war which occurred between the Connachta and the Ulaid. Medb Cruachan is therefore regarded as the tutelary goddess of the Connachta, who presided over their territory: the province of Connacht.

As regards the goddess Macha, she is associated with the sacral centre of the Ulaid in Ulster which bears her name: Eamhain Mhacha. It corresponds to the huge Late Bronze Age – Iron Age hill-fort, known today as ‘Navan Fort’, excavated five kilometres to the west of Armagh, in Co. Armagh (fig. 4).1295 According to Ó hÓgáin, the hill fort, initially called in prehistoric Ireland by the Celtic name *Isomnion, became known as Eamhain Mhacha, on account of the sacredness of the land surrounding the hill fort – the ‘plain’, macha in Irish, was deified as a goddess.1296 Macha being several times equated with the Mórrígain, whose character is very ancient, one can suppose that Macha supplanted the Mórrígain in her role of land-goddess of sovereignty in Ulster.1297 A later legend relates that Macha was the daughter of Aed Rúad, who, with Cimbáeth and Díthorba, successively ruled over Ireland for seven years each.1298 After the death of Aed, Macha Mong Rúad (‘Red-Haired’), fought for the queenship, which she eventually obtained. She then defeated the five sons of Díthorba, who claimed the throne after their father’s death, and married her rival Cimbáeth so as to command his soldiers. To secure her place as Queen, she tricked the sons of Díthorba by turning herself into a leper and bringing them one by one into a forest where she tied them up instead of coupling with them. Reduced to servility, they erected the famous fortress (ráth) Eamhain Mhacha in her honour, which became the capital of the Ulaid (from Celtic *Ulati).

Finally, the goddess Mór Muman (‘the Great Nurtress’) is believed to have been the patroness of Munster. The province, originally Mumu and later Mumhain, is called after her. From her epithet Mór (‘great’), which particularizes the earliest land-goddesses (for instance the Mórrígain), one can infer that her cult is quite ancient and must have emanated with the Érainn people inhabiting the region. She was later given another name, Mugha or Mughain, signifying ‘female servant’, which actually had nothing to do with her. This confusion must correspond to the time when the power of the Érainn was eclipsed by the Eóganacht (‘people of Eόgan’), who controlled the south of Ireland from the 5th c. AD to the 12th c.1299 The eponymous ancestor of this sept*, Eógan, was a derivative of Celtic *Ivo-genos, meaning ‘by the yew conceived’. The Eóganacht adopted and developed her cult by associating her with some of their historical kings.

A 10th-century text features Mór Muman as an early 7th-century historical Queen who married two great kings of the tribe of the Eóganacht ruling over Munster. Here is an example of the recurring pattern of the territorial goddess marrying the reigning king.1300 The legend, entitled Mór Muman Ocus Aided Cuanach Meic Ailchine [‘Mór of Munster and the Tragic Fate of Cuanu Son of Cailchin’], relates that Mór Muman was the daughter of Aed Bennáin, King of Loch Léin (Lake Killarney) – the stronghold of a branch of the Eóganacht.1301 After being asked in marriage by several kings, Mór Muman started hearing voices warning her of her future woes. Turning mad, she decided to leave the fortress of her father and wandered for two years around Ireland. When she arrived at Caiseal (Cashel, Co. Tipperary) – one of the original strongholds of the Eóganacht sept*, situated on a huge rock, and set up by the mythical Conall Corc after he had seen a yew tree appear there –1302 she had become an ugly woman dressed in rags. She yet managed to lie with the king of Munster, Fíngein mac Áeda. She took the Queen’s place and bore Fíngein a son, called Sechnasach. After the death of Fíngein, Mór Muman went to Cathal mac Finnguine, the king of Glendamain (north-east Cork), where her sister Ruithchern was held in captivity, and they together mourned for Fingen. In this text, Cathal mac Finnguine, who ruled over Munster from 721 to 742 AD, is confused with his great-grand father, Cathal mac Aodha, the actual successor of Fíngein mac Áeda when Fíngein died in 619 AD.1303 Mór Muman then entrusted her sister to the care of Lonán mac Findech, who decided to bring her back to her people, the sons of Aed Bennáin. On their way, they were attacked by Cuanu mac Cailchin, King of Fer Maige Féne at Loch Liathmhuine (a place situated in the parish of Kilgullane, Barony of Fermoy, Co. Cork),1304 and Ruithchern was abducted. When Lonán returned to Loch Léin without Ruithchern, the sons of Aed Bennáin proclaimed war upon the sons of Cathal for not being capable of protecting her. In the course of the battle, Lonán mac Findech, seeking revenge for his wife, beheaded Cuanu mac Cailchin.

Folk survivals

The character ofMór Muman endured in various folk accounts, particularly in County Kerry, and her character of sovereignty over the territory survived in several other preternatural ladies who were later attached to specific parts of the land of the province of Munster. Clidna, whose name means ‘the Territorial One’, is associated with Cúan Dor, the bay of Glandore, in Co. Cork, where she was said to have drowned (fig. 4).1305 Her dwelling is believed to be situated under a rock called Carraig Chlíona in the parish of Kilshannig, to the south of Mallow, in Co. Cork. Through oral lore, her cult extended to the whole of Munster and she became one of the most important and famous otherworld patronesses of the province. As her name indicates, Cailleach Bhéarra (‘the Hag of Beara’), also called Boí (‘Cow’) or the sentainne (‘old woman’) of Beara, is related to the Beara Peninsula, located between Bantry Bay and the Kenmare estuary, in the west of Co. Cork (fig. 4).1306 In literature and folklore, Cailleach Bhéarra is generally featured as an old and sinister woman, representing the dark side of the land-goddess. She is clearly associated with the land, agriculture and harvest time, configurating the landscape with her fingers and bringing prosperity to the province.1307 Her aspect of sovereignty is reflected in an 8th-century or early 9th-century poem, entitled ‘The Lament of the Old Woman of Beare’, relating she had drunk mead and mated with the kings of Ireland in her youth (see Chapter 5).1308 In Scottish folklore, she is known as Cailleach Bheur (‘the Genteel Old Woman’), and her counterpart is Cailleach Beinne Bric (‘the Old Woman of Speckled Mountain’). Moreover, she has some connections with Scottish winter spirits also represented as hags, such as Cailleach Uragaig (‘Old Woman of Uragag’) of the Isle of Colonsay (Strathclyde), and Caillagh ny Groamagh (‘Old Woman of Gloominess’). There was a similar hag called Caillagh ny Gueshag (‘Old Woman of the Spells’) on the Isle of Man.1309

The fairy lady Aoibheall (‘Sparkling’ or ‘Bright’), who is studied later in this chapter, presided over the territory of east Co. Clare and north-west of Co. Tipperary and protected the sept* of the Dál gCais (O’Briens), who had a stronghold built on the rock Craig Liath (Craglea, near Killaloe, Co. Clare) in the 6th c. AD (fig. 4).1310 The legends make this promontory the dwelling of Aoibheall. Finally, the fairy lady Áine, whose name signifies ‘Brightness’, ‘Glow’ or ‘Lustre’, is specifically attached to Cnoc Áine (Knockainey), a hill located near Lough Gur in east Co. Limerick (fig. 4).1311 She was one of the patronesses of the tribe of the Eóganacht. She is either identified as the daughter of the sea god Manannán mac Lir,1312 or as the daughter of the fairy king Eógabal.1313 She is generally described as a beautiful radiant fairy lady, as in the poem entitled Bend Etair, published in the Metrical Dindshenchas, which relates that Etar pined for her and died of a broken heart when he was rejected.1314 Áine’s territorial and sovereign aspect is clearly emphasized in a passage of an 8th-century text, entitled Cath Maige Mucrama [‘The Battle of Mag Mucrama’].1315 The legend recounts that Ailill, after falling asleep twice at Samhain on Cnoc Áine, wondered who had stripped the grass of the hill during the night and came to inspect the mount with the help of Fearcheas mac Comáin, a seer-poet.1316 They discovered that fairy people inhabited the hill: the king Eógabal and his daughter Áine. Fearcheas murdered Eógabal and Ailill abused the girl, who cursed him for misconduct. From that time on, the name of Áine was given to the hill.1317 The text as we have it from the 8th c. goes as follows:

‘Luid Ailill íarum aidchi shamna do [fh]recaire a ech i nÁne Chlíach. Dérgither dó is’ tilaig. Ro lommad in tilach in n-aidchi-sin 7 ni fes cía ros lomm. Fecht fo dí dó fon inna[s]-sin. Ba ingnad les-seom. Foídis techta úad co Ferches mac Commáin éices ro baí i mMairg Lagen. Fáith side 7 fhénnid. Do-lluid-side dia acallaim. Tíagait a ndiis aidchi shamna issin tilaig. Anaid Ailill is’ tilaig. Baí Ferches frie anechtair. Do-fuitt didiu cotlud for Ailill ic costecht fri fogilt na cethrae. Do-llotar asint síd 7 Éogabul mac Durgabuil rí int sída ina ndíaid 7 Áne ingen Éogabuil 7 timpán créda ina láim oca seinm dó ara bélaib. At-raig dó in Ferches co toba(i)rt buille dó. Ro ráith Éogabul reme issa síd. Atn-úarat Ferches di gaí mór co rróemid a druim triit. In tan donn-ánic co Ailill cond-ránic-side frisin n-ingin. Eret ro buí i ssuidiu ro den in ben a ó cona farcaib féoil na crocand fair connáro ássair fair ríam ónd úair-sin. Conid Ailill Ó-lomm a ainm ó sein. ‘Olc ro bábair frim’, ar ind Áne, ‘mo sárugud 7 marbad m’athar. Not sáraigiub-sa ind .i. nocon fháicéb-sa athgabáil latt in tan immo-scéram’. Ainm na ingine-sin fil forin tilaig, .i. Áne Chlíach.

Ailill went then one Samhain night to attend to his horses on Áne Chlíach. A bed is made for him on the hill. That night the hill was stripped bare and it was not known who had stripped it. So it happened to him twice. He wondered at it. He sent off messengers to Ferches the poet son of Commán who was in Mairg of Leinster. He was a seer and a warrior. He came to speak to him. Both go one Samhain night to the hill. Ailill remains on the hill. Ferches was aside from it. Sleep then comes to Ailill while listening to the grazing of the beasts. They came out of the fairy mound with Éogabul son of Durgabul king of the fairy mound after them and Áne daughter of Éogabul with a bronze timpán in her hand playing before him. Ferches rises up to meet him and struck him. Éogabul ran on into the fairy mound. Ferches attacks him with a great spear so that his brack broke when he reached the fairy mound. Ailill had intercourse with the girl. While he was so engaged the woman sucked his ear so that she left neither flesh nor skin on it and none ever grew on it from that time. So that Ailill Bare-ear is his name since then. ‘You have been wicked to me’, said Áne, ‘[in] violating me and slaying my father. I will cause great injury to you for it. I will leave no property in your possession when we part’. That girl’s name is on the hill, that is, Áne Chlíach.1318

The form of the relationship between Ailill and Áine – rape rather than marriage – reflects a hostile twist to the tradition, and properly the lore must have been that Ailill became the husband of the land-goddess Áine. Because of this connection with Ailill Ólom, the mythical king of the Eóganacht, Áine became viewed as the ancestress of the sept*, and because of her relation with the territory of this tribe, she is clearly an emanation of the ancient Munster land-territorial goddess of sovereignty. Her name cannot however be etymologically related to the name of the land-goddess Ana, as Eleanor Hull stipulates in Folklore of the British Isles.1319

The Irish mythological and folk legends thus reflect several aspects of early tradition. First of all, it is clear that each tribe worshipped particular goddesses embodying the land where they had settled. Each province of Ireland, ruled by different peoples, became represented by a distinctive goddess: Medb Lethderg presided over Leinster, the land of the Laighin, Medb Cruachan ruled Connaght and the Connachta, Macha (the Mórrígain) protected Ulster and the Ulaid and Mór Muman, the patroness of the Érainn, guarded over Munster. As demonstrated in Chapter 2, those goddesses clearly have land and agrarian aspects: Macha is the ‘Field’, Mór Muman is the ‘Great Nurturer’, etc. They are all emanations of the primary goddess embodying the land and bringing fertility, prosperity and wealth to the people. Becoming attached to certain parts of the territory, inhabited by septs* of different origins, the earth-goddess took on different names and various functions were attributed to her.

Fig. 4: Map of mythical sites in Ireland relating to Territorial-Goddesses. (Source: N. Beck).

What emerges from the legends is the role of sovereignty pertaining to the territorial or tribal-goddesses. As her title proves, Queen Medb, who subdues kings and heroes, is the sovereign par excellence. The accounts of Medb Lethderg, Medb Cruachan, Macha and Mór Muman are reminiscent of the archaic belief of the land-goddess mating with the sky-father god, illustrated by the legend recounted in Cath Maige Tuired of the Dagda (‘Good God’) and the Mórrígain (‘Great Queen’), who couple at the ford of the river Uinsinn, in Co. Sligo, right before the beginning of the mythical battle between the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Fomhoire: Medb Lethderg, Medb Cruachan, Macha and Mór Muman clearly accede to the sovereignty of the territory by coupling with the reigning kings. The text is the following:

‘Boí tegdas den Dagdae a nGlionn Edin antúaith. Baí dano bandál forsin Dagdae dia blíadhnaehimon Samain an catha oc Glind Edind. Gongair an Unius la Connachta frioa andes. Co n-acu an mnaí a n-Unnes a Corand og nide, indarna cos dí fri Allod Echae (.i. Echuinech) fri husci andes alole fri Loscondoib fri husce antúaith. Noí trillsi taitbechtai for a ciond. Agoillis an Dagdae hí 7 dogníad óentaich. Lige ina Lánomhnou a ainm an baile ó sin. Is hí an Morrígan an bhen-sin isberur sunn.

The Dagda had a house in Glen Edin in the north, and he had arranged to meet a woman in Glen Edin a year from that day, near the All Hallows of the battle. The Unshin of Connacht roars to the south of it. He saw the woman at the Unshin in Corann, washing, with one of her feet at Allod Echae (i.e. Aghanagh) south of the water and the other at Lisconny north of the water. There were nine loosened tresses on her head. The Dagda spoke with her, and they united. ‘The Bed of the Couple’ was the name of that place from that time on. (The woman mentioned here is the Mórrígain.1320

The evidence in Gaul and Britain of goddesses bearing ethnonyms* or names of tribes, such as Brigantia of the Brigantes, Dexiva of the Dexivates, the Matres Treverae of the Treveri, the Nervinae of the Nervinii, the Matres Remae of the Remi, the Matres Senonae of the Senones, the Matronae Vediantiae of the the Vediantii, prove that the worship of tribal-goddesses was part of the religious beliefs of the Celts. The Irish territorial-goddesses are not eponymous of the sept* they represent, but their stories shed light on the possible nature and functions of the Gallo-British tribal-goddesses. As primary land and agrarian goddesses, they ensure prosperity to the province and its inhabitants. As representatives of the tribe, they preside and rule over the territory and people; a sovereign role which leads to a significant function of protection and defence of the land. The Irish mythological legends indeed evoke the pronounced war-like character of the territorial/tribal-goddesses. Thus, Macha rises up in arms and fiercely fights to gain queenship, while Medb declares war on the Ulstermen to obtain the great bull of Cooley. Furthermore, Medb Lethderg (‘Half-Red’), Medb Cruachan (‘Bloody Red’) and Macha Mong Ruad(‘Red-Haired’) bear epithets referring to the colour red, which symbolises blood and war, as Dumézil points out: “red was the colour of war and warriors for the Celts, as well as in Rome and in India”.1321 Those epithets are accordingly redolent of the bloody contests which occurred to obtain the power of a province.

In addition to her function of sustenance, the goddess presiding over the land and the tribe was given regal and martial attributes, conveying protection of the territory and its inhabitants. This role is clearly illustrated by the British goddess Brigantia, tutelary goddess of the Brigantes, who is portrayed with helmet and spear on a relief* from Birrens (Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland),1322 and equated with the Romanized goddess Caelestis, to whom was attributed protective functions of the city, and the Roman goddess of war Victory in three inscriptions from Corbridge and Yorkshire (see below).1323 The land-goddess was thus turned into a war-goddess when protection was needed in time of conflict.

Irish War Goddesses: Gallo-British Counterparts?


War-goddesses have a very important place in Irish mythology. They are generally three in number and are featured as strong, powerful and horrific creatures, personifying violence, carnage and death occurring on the battlefield. The trio varies from one legend to another, but it is usually composed of the Mórrígain (‘Phantom Queen’ or ‘Great Queen’), Badb (‘Crow’) and Nemain (‘Battle-Fury’, ‘War-Frenzy’ or ‘Panic’).1324 The latter is sometimes replaced by Macha (‘Field’) or Fea (‘Everything Most Hateful’).1325 In the Battle of Magh Rath, Nemain is called Bé Neit, that is ‘the Wife of the Warrior’, because Nemain and Fea are said to be the wives of Nét (‘Leader’), who is described as a god of war in the 9th-century Sanas Cormaic.1326 The Mórrígain is undoubtedly the primary character of the trio: the others being replications of her. A text indeed explains that Badhbh, Macha ocus Mórrígain inna téora Mórrígnae, that is “Badb, Macha and Mórrígain are the three Mórrígna”.1327 This reference obviously indicates that the Mórrígain is the original entity, who could be turned into a triple goddess possessing various facets, names and forms.

Before analyzing the essence, attributes and functions of the Irish war-goddesses, it is important to investigate whether their names can be found in the Gallo-British epigraphy. Despite the gap in time and sources, is it possible to establish etymological correspondences which would evidence that an ancient cult dedicated to war-goddesses was shared by the populations from Ireland and from the Continent?

Divine Crows of War: Badb, Cathubodua and Cassibodua

The name of the crow-shaped war-goddess Badb, later Badhbh, derives from Celtic boduos, bodua, which must originally have had a connotation of fury, rage and violence and signified ‘fight’.1328 As Lambert argues, it may be derived from *bhu-dh-wâ, a participial formation in -wo-, -wâ, coming from the verbal theme *bheu-dh- meaning ‘to inform’, ‘to warn’, ‘to awaken’.1329 Badb would thus mean the ‘presage’ or the ‘prediction’. This theory is interesting, for the war-goddess clearly fulfils a role of prophetess and harbinger of death. Furthermore, the apparition of a crow is viewed in Irish mythological and folk traditions as a bad omen, foreshadowing disaster or death. The word bodb later evolved with the meaning of ‘raven’, ‘crow’ or ‘fighting lady’ because the war-goddess was represented in such a shape. As Badb appears in time of war and hovers over the carnage of the battlefield, she is often given the epithet of Cath which means ‘battle’ in Irish and is cognate with Welsh cad, Old Breton cat and Gaulish catu, ‘battle’.1330 The Cath-Bhadhbh or later Badb Catha is thus the ‘Battle Crow’. The Irish Cath-Bhadhbh indeed would linguistically go directly back to a Celtic *Catu-bodua.

It is of great significance to find the exact same name in an inscription from the south-east of Gaul, discovered in a field called ‘Vers Fan’, at a place known as Les Fins de Ley, in the hamlet Ley, near Mieussy (Haute-Savoie) in 1860: [C]athuboduae Aug(ustae) Servilia Terentia v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito), ‘To the August Cathubodua, Servilia Terentia paid her vow willingly and deservedly’ (fig. 5).1331 The dedicator is a woman who has Latin names and bears the duo nomina of Roman citizens. Scholars are divided on the spelling and meaning of the name of this goddess. The altar being damaged on the left side, some specialists, such as Alfred Pictet, William Hennessy and Olmsted, maintain that the first letter of the name is missing. In view of Irish Cath-Bhadhbh, they reconstruct the divine name as [C]athubodua, ‘Battle Crow’ and see in her a war-goddess in crow shape.1332 Others, such as Allmer, Toutain and Bernard Rémy, deny the possibility of a missing letter and assert that the name is to be read Athubodua. According to them, the first element of her name athu can be related to the name of a nearby lake or swamp called Anthon, near the village of Anthon. Athubodua would therefore be the name of a topical goddess presiding over the waters of this lake.1333 Nonetheless, this etymology* does not take the second element bodua into account, and, as the altar is mutilated on the left side, the possibility of a missing letter cannot be dismissed.

At any rate, this Gaulish inscription proves that the belief in a raven-shaped goddess (bodua) certainly goes back to ancient times and was shared by various Celtic peoples. Significantly, Delamarre adds that there might have been some similarity between Irish Badb, Gaulish Bodua and an archaic Germanic goddess of war and storm called Baduhenna, whose name could be derived from a proto-Germanic root *badwa meaning ‘battle’.1334 Tacitus, who recounts the revolt of the Germanic Frisians against the Romans at the end of Book 4 of The Annals, mentions that Baduhenna had a grove bearing her name in Frisia, where, in 28 AD, 900 Roman soldiers were slain by the Frisians:

‘mox compertum a transfugis nongentos Romanorum apud lucum quem Baduhennae vocant pugna in posterum extracta confectos, et aliam quadringentorum manum occupata Cruptorigis quondam stipendiari villa, postquam proditio metuebatur, mutuis ictibus procubuisse.

Soon afterwards it was ascertained from deserters that nine hundred Romans had been cut to pieces in a wood called Baduhenna’s, after prolonging the fight to the next day, and that another body of four hundred, which had taken possession of the house of one Cruptorix, once a soldier in our pay, fearing betrayal, had perished by mutual slaughter.1335

Fig. 5: Altar dedicated to [C]athubodua (‘Battle? Crow’) discovered in Mieussy (Haute-Savoie). In the Museum of Annecy. Hennessy, 1870, p. 32.

Moreover, a goddess Cassibodua is mentioned in a dedication from Herbitzheim (Germany): I(n) h(onorem) d(omus) d(ivinae) Victoriae [C]assi(b)oduae, ‘In honour of the Divine House and to Victoria Cassibodua’.1336The use of the abbreviated votive formula In h. d. d. allows us to date this altar from the beginning of the 3rd c. AD.1337 The significance of the first element of her name cassi is still much debated. Various translations have been proposed, such as ‘elegant’, ‘full of hatred’, ‘saint or sacred’, and recently ‘tin’ or ‘bronze’, with a connotation of hardness or power and probably of brightness.1338 The second element of her name bodua refers to the ‘crow’.1339 Cassibodua might therefore be the ‘Sacred Crow’ or the ‘Strong, Powerful Crow’ (?). This goddess is undeniably related to war, since she is associated with Victoria, the Roman goddess who attends to the war successes of her people and ensures victory.1340

The existence of Irish Badb and Gaulish (C)athubodua and Cassibodua strongly suggests that the tradition of a war-goddess in the shape of a crow was extant in Celtic times. The texts describe the raven-shaped goddess flying over the field of battle and devouring the corpses of the dead soldiers. The 13th-century Glossary of O’Mulconry indeed specifies that Macha, that is Badb, eats the heads of the warriors slain in combat:

‘Machae .i. badb nó así an trés morrígan, unde mesrad Machae .i. cendae doíne iarna n-airlech.

Macha, i.e. Badb, or it is she who is the third Mórrígain, therefore the fruit crop of Macha, the heads of men after the massacre.1341

Where does this belief come from? The carrion-crow is a bird of prey which was seen hovering over the battleground after the carnage of a fight, waiting for the moment when it would satisfy its hunger with the flesh of the dead soldiers. Thus the crow became an important symbol of war for the Celts, as some helmets adorned with a raven illustrate.1342 A noteworthy example is the impressive iron helmet from Ciumesti (Romania), dated beginning of the 3rd c. BC, which is surmounted by a huge crow in bronze (fig. 6).1343 Similarly, on one of the plaques of the Gunestrup Cauldron, a warrior is featured wearing a crow-crested helmet (Chapter 5, fig. 8).1344

Fig. 6: The iron cask surmounted by a bronze crow from Ciumesti (Romania), dated beginning of the 3rd c. BC. Bucarest. In the Muzeul de Istorie. Duval, 1977, pp. 78 and 106.

It is interesting to note that some Classical texts tell of a tradition in Celtic times not to bury the bodies of the dead warriors after the fighting but to leave them on the battlefield to be devoured by carrion crows or birds of prey.1345Such a practice is recounted by Pausinias in around AD 180, in his Description of Greece (Graciae Descritpio), which tells of the incursion of the Celtic chief leader Brennos into Greece, through the pass of Thermopylae ‘Hot Gates’ to reach the centre of Greece from Thessaly:

‘touto men dê epegegrapto prin ê tous homou Sullai kai alla tôn Athênêisi kai tas en têi stoai tou Eleutheriou Dios kathelein aspidas: tote de en tais Thermopulais hoi men Hellênes meta tên machên tous te hautôn ethapton kai eskuleuon tous barbarous, hoi Galatai de oute huper anaireseôs tôn nekrôn epekêrukeuonto epoiounto te ep’ isês gês sphas tuchein ê thêria te autôn emphorêthênai kai hoson tethneôsi polemion estin ornithôn.

This inscription remained until Sulla and his army took away, among other Athenian treasures, the shields in the porch of Zeus, God of Freedom. After this battle at Thermopylae the Greeks buried their own dead and spoiled the barbarians, but the Gauls sent no herald to ask leave to take up the bodies, and were indifferent whether the earth received them or whether they were devoured by wild beasts or carrion birds.1346

Similarly, the Greek sophist Aelien, in his De Natura Animalium (200 AD), speaking of the Vaccaei, a people from the north-east of Spain, and the Latin poet Silius Italicus in Punica (50 AD) – an important work which recounts the events of the Second Punic War, from the oath of Hannibal to the victory of Scipion at the end of the war at Zama – explain that the Celt-Iberians used to leave the bodies of the warriors killed in action on the ground in open air, so that the birds of prey, which were regarded as sacred, could eat their flesh and entrails:

‘The Vaccaei burn the bodies of those who are dead of illness on a pyre […] Those who are dead in war, and who they regard as noble men of high value, they abandon them to the vultures, which they regard as sacred.1347

The Celt-Iberians came after them. Eager to die in battle, they consider it a crime to burn the body of those who die in this fashion. They believe that their souls return to the heavens and the realm of the gods, if their corpses are torn to pieces by the greedy bird of prey.1348
In Celt-Iberia, there was an ancient custom of leaving dead bodies to be devoured by the foul bird of prey.1349

In addition to being mentioned in some passages of Classical literature, the Celtic funerary practice of exposing the bodies of the dead warriors to the birds of prey is attested in the iconography, notably from Celtiberia. A fragment of stele* discovered in Lara de los Infantes (Burgos, Museo Arqueológico) depicts a scene of war. On the left, two soldiers play music on long trumpets. On the right, from top to bottom, a spear or javelin, a standing warrior with a sword, a head of spear and a huge bird which may be a crow can be identified (fig. 7).1350 Two fragments of painted ceramic from Numantia – a city situated in the north of Spain which resisted the Romans from 143 to 133 BC – show two warriors lying on the ground flown over by birds of prey.1351 Moreover, a stele* from El Palao, in the Alcañiz region (Teruel), is of great interest, for it has a rider holding a spear in his left hand and a round object in his right hand. At his feet, the body of a dead warrior, who holds the same round object in his left hand, lies and is being eaten by two ravens (fig. 8).1352 Finally, Jean-Louis Brunaux refers to a stamnos*, dating from the 1st quarter of the 4th c. BC, housed in the Kunstmuseum in Bonn, which represents two Celtic warriors fighting two Italic soldiers (fig. 9).1353 The Celtic warriors are recognizable because they are combating naked and because they wear a belt holding a typical La Tène sheath. The one on the right is dead and lies on the ground. A bird of prey, perched on his shoulder, devours the flesh of his stomach. A second vulture, situated behind the fighting warrior, seems to be waiting for his death: the bird of prey, which is an omen of death, represents the impending death of the warrior.

Fig. 7: Stele* from Lara de los Infantes depicting a scene of war. On the right appears a huge bird: a crow? In Museo Arqueológico, Burgos.García y Bellido, 1949, vol. 2, pl. 265, n°361.

Fig. 8: Facsimile of the stele* from El Palao, in the Alcañiz region (Teruel), Spain, depicting a scene of war: a dead warrior is being devoured by two crows. Brunaux, 2004, p. 119, fig. 54.

Fig. 9: Fourth-century BCstamnos* depicting a scene of war: the Celtic dead warrior on the left is being devoured by a bird of prey perched on his shoulder. In the Kunstmuseum in Bonn. Brunaux, 2004, p. 119, fig. 55.

This has a clear parallel with the episode of the death of the great Irish hero-warrior Cú Chulainn, recounted in a text entitled Aided Con Culainn [‘The Death of Cú Chulainn’]. The text dates from the 14th or 15th c., but the stratum of the legend is previous to the 10th c.1354 It relates that the death of Cú Chulainn was brought about by the six children of Cailitín, a warrior slain in combat by the hero. Medb had these children reared by a sorceress in the faraway regions of the world, and they returned to Ireland determined to use their magic to avenge their father’s death. One of these children was the sorceress called Badb:

‘[…] 7 do bí a inathar rena chosaibh ann sin, 7 do thúirn in branfiach Badhbha forsna hindaibh, co tarrla camlúb dona cáelánaibh fo chosaibh in brainfhiaigh, co tarrla leagad dó. 7 do maidh a gean gáire for Coin Chulainn uime sin 7 is é sin gáire deidhenach do-rinne Cú Chulainn. Et tángatar neóill in bánéga dá innsaighi ann sin 7 táinic roime chum locháin do bí a coimnesa. Do bí ’ga thonach féin as, gurob Lochán in Tonaigh ainm in locháin dá éisi.

[…] and his intestines were about his legs then, and the raven Badhbh descended on the place, so that a twisted loop of the guts happened to be under the legs of the raven, so that it was knocked down. And his merry laugh came to Cú Chulainn at that, and that was the last laugh done by Cú Chulainn. And the shades of white death came over him then, and he went to a pool which was nearby. He was washing himself from it, and accordingly that pool is named Lochán an Lonaigh [i.e. ‘the Pool of the Washing’] after that.
‘Cáit a fuil Badhbh ingin Cailitín ?’ ar Medb.
‘Atú sund’, ar Badhbh.
‘Éirigh,’ ar Medb, ‘7 fagh a fis damh in beó nó in marb Cú Chulainn.’
‘Rachadsa and sin,’ ar Badhbh, ‘gidh b’é olc dogébh de.’
Is é richt a ndechaidh a richt eóin ar eittillaig annsan áer ósa chind, 7 ‘má tásan beó, marbhfaidh sé misi don chéturchar asa chranntabhull, óir ní dechaidh én ná bethidheach etorra 7 áer nar marbhfad, 7 má tá marbh, do-gén túrnamh ara chomair, 7 do cluinfid sibhsi mo chomarc.’
7 táinic a richt fuince .i. fennóigi a frithibh forarda na firmaminti ósa cind, 7 do druit anuas d’éis a chéile no co ráinic a comgaire dó, 7 do léig a trí sgrécha comóra ósa chin, 7 do thúirn arin sceich ósa comair amach, conadh sceich fuinci ainm na sceiche ar Mag Muirthemne.
Ó ’d-chonncatar fir Érenn sin, ‘is fír sin,’ ar siat, ‘is marbh Cú Chulainn 7 innsaighther dúin é.’

‘Where is Badhbh, daughter of Cailitín?’ said Meadhbh.
‘I am here,’ said Badhbh.
‘Arise,’ said Meadhbh, ‘and get knowledge for me whether alive or dead is Cú Chulainn.’
‘I will go there,’ said Babhdh, ‘even though I fare badly due to it.’
The form she went in was that of a bird flying in the air over him, and ‘if he be alive he will kill me with the first shot from his sling, for no bird or animal [ever] went between him and air that he would not kill, and if he is dead I will descend in front of him, and ye will hear my outcry.’
And she came in the form of a crow i.e. of a scaldcrow from the very high realms of the firmament over him, and she came down gradually until she came near to him, and she gave her three great screeches over him, and she descended onto the thorn-bush in front of him, so that the thorn-bush on Magh Muirtheimhne [‘the Plain of the Inundation’] is named the thorn-bush of the crow.
When the men of Ireland saw that, ‘it is true for you,’ they said, ‘Cú Chulainn is dead, and let us approach him.’1355

This is a fictional development of Badb into a daughter of Cailitín, but she retains the earlier mythical connotation of the otherworld woman who is hostile to Cú Chulainn: the Mórrígain or Badb. The text is reminiscent of her early crow-shaped image and shrieks. It recounts that Badb first came to Cú Chulainn to drink his blood when he was cleaning his wounds in a lake after the fighting. She tripped over his entrails, which made him laugh one final time. Cú Chulainn strapped himself to a stone column, so that, even in death, he would face his enemies standing. Badb is then sent by Medb to check whether the great hero is dead.

This funerary custom might be also attested by archaeological discoveries. Brunaux suggests that the polygonal enclosure of the war sanctuary of Ribemont-sur-Ancre (Somme), situated about forty metres from the quadrangular enclosure, may have been used as a door towards the otherworld, where the corpses of the dead warriors of the victors were deposited in open air at the mercy of the birds of prey for their souls to be taken to the Beyond.1356 The enclosure was paved and delimited by high walls in wood and cobs. In the north part of the enclosure, a two-metre-deep hollow altar and a significant amount of carcasses of domestic animals which attest to intensive religious practices and rituals were unearthed. The excavations indicated that, after a few months, the walls had been destroyed and the trenches filled in with the remains of the pavement, burnt wood and vestiges from the enclosed area. These vestiges turned out to be a hundred human bones and weapons, which means that corpses had been left to decompose in the yard, where religious rites must have been held, before filling up the ditch. Given that some of the bones have marks of animal manducation, Brunaux assumes this might have been a death rite consisting in letting the vultures devour the flesh of the dead warriors to facilitate their travel to the otherworld.1357 Unlike the quadrangular enclosure, the bones were not those of the enemy warriors but of the winning camp. About fifty one-metre high steles* in sandstone in the effigy of warriors were indeed discovered on the site. They must have represented the hero-warriors who had courageously fought: their bravery had to be eternally glorified. This funerary rite must have been accompanied with religious ceremonies and practices, which would explain the various animal sacrifices and the hollow altar. The priests were present to establish contact with the otherworld and to ease the transition of the heroes to the supernatural world. Furthermore, offerings were made so that the gods would accept and look after them.

Therefore, it is clear that the crow shape of the war-goddess springs from the fact that birds of prey were often seen flying over the carnage at the end of a combat. It is natural for such birds to feed on the flesh of dead bodies. The birds were generally regarded as divine messengers or oracular birds commuting between the realm of the gods and the natural world, predicting events or answering the questions of the human beings.1358 In the context of war, the mediator of the gods took on funerary aspects, being then understood as a conveyor of the souls of the glorious dead warriors to the otherworld. This is attested by some Classical texts, iconographical data and possibly archaeological discoveries, such as the polygonal enclosure of Ribemont-sur-Ancre (Somme). The bird of prey was then deified as a goddess taking its shape and cries, flying over the battlefield, taking part in the carnage and exulting in bloodshed. As the Classical authors explain, it was honourable for the Celts to die in war. It was a proof of courage, valour and great merit for the warrior who gave his life for the protection of his people. Not to bury the dead heroes but to leave them in the open air was a mark of high respect, for the warriors, eaten by the crow goddess, would be taken to the divine world and eternally praised.

The ‘Queen’ Goddess: Irish Mórrígain, Gallo-British Rigana, Welsh Rhiannon

The meaning of the name of the most famous Irish war-goddess has caused a lot of ink to flow among the scholars, for its spelling differs from one text to another: Mórrígain / Mórrígu or Morrígain / Morrígu.1359 The second element of her name is unambiguous. In Old Irish, rígain means ‘queen’, like Welsh rhiain, which originally signified ‘queen’ but has today the meaning of ‘young lady, maiden, virgin’.1360 They are both derived from an old Celtic word rīgani / rīgana meaning ‘queen’, equivalent to Latin rēgīna. The endig in ‘u’ is due to analogy with other feminine words which have a genitive ending in ‘an’, as Mórrígain does (gen. sing. Mórrígan).As for the first element of her name, it is problematic, for it is sometimes written with a short vowel, i.e. mor meaning ‘phantom’ or ‘nightmare’,1361 and sometimes with an accented vowel, i.e mór meaning ‘great’.1362 This difference in spelling changes the significance of the goddess name.

Generally, the form Morrígain, that is ‘Phantom Queen’, is taken to be the earliest and primary form.1363 And yet, one is inclined to think that the form Mórrígain, that is ‘Great Queen’, is the correct spelling, given that the adjective mór is often used to qualify land-goddesses in Irish tradition, for instance Mór Muman (‘Great Nurturess’). Furthermore, it seems that the appellation ‘Great Queen’ is more suitable for a goddess than the designation ‘Phantom’, although this latter designation could refer to her link to death. The context of carnage and her function as an harbinger of death are of later date than her attributes of land-goddess, and this is the reason why we chose to spell her name Mórrígain rather than Morrígain.

Just as Irish Cath-Bhadhbh is similar to Gaulish Cathubodua, the Mórrígain is etymologically linked to the goddess epithet or name Rigani, which is attested in Latin form by three Gallo-Roman inscriptions discovered in Great Britain and Germany. The dedication found in Worringen (Germany), in the territory of the Ubii, reads: In h(onorem) d(omus) d(ivinae) deae Regin(ae) vicani se[…] Gorigienses, ‘In honour of the Divine House and of the goddess Regina, the inhabitants […] Gorigienses’.1364 The one discovered before 1732 in Lanchester, located in the north-east of Britain, is engraved on an altar, which has a wild boar on the left side: Reginae votum Misio v(otum) l(ibens) s(olvit), ‘To the Queen-Goddess, Misio willingly fulfilled his vow’.1365 The dedicator Misio is a peregrine*, for he bears the unique name. The most interesting monument is the relief* from Lemington, a town situated a few kilometres north of Lanchester, because it offers an inscription combined with a depiction of the goddess: DEA RIIGINA.1366 The goddess is represented “with a halo coiffure and a robe reaching to the knee. In her left hand she holds a pointed staff resting on a stand, in her right hand a short staff resembling a cordoned column”.1367 These attributes bespeak her sovereignty and power, and might bear some war symbolism.

Other Gaulish goddess-names comprise the root riga, rica, ‘queen’: Camuloriga (‘Queen of the Champions’),1368 and possibly Albiorica, but her name is uncertain. An inscription engraved on a mutilated altar discovered around 1875 in Saint-Saturnin d’Apt (Vaucluse) reads: Albiorice v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito), ‘To Albiorice [the dedicator] paid his vow willingly and deservedly’ (fig. 10).1369 One could wonder whether Albiorice is a divine name or a proper name, but the use of the votive formula votum solvit libens merito indicates that the inscription is offered to a deity. Scholars are divided over the gender of the deity. Augustin Deloye and Otto Hirschfeld reconstruct the feminine name Albiorica, while Espérandieu, Barruol and Jacques Gascou argue that the form Albiorice stands for Albiorix.1370 While the goddess name Albiorica is not known from any other dedications, the god name Albiorix is mentioned in several inscriptions from Mont-Genèvre (Hautes-Alpes), Vaison-la-Romaine (Vaucluse) and Montsalier (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence).1371 The first element of his name albio, ‘bright’, ‘world (from the above)’ has a religious and mythological connotation and seems to refer to high places, such as mounts or mountains.1372 Albiorix (‘King of the World’) is imagistically the opposite of the proper name Dumnorix (‘King of the Under World’) which alludes to the world of darkness.1373 According to Sterckx, Albiorica may have been a healing goddess similar to the Roman goddess of health and hygiene Hygia, because her consort Albiorix is sometimes associated with Apollo in the inscriptions.1374 However, Albiorix is never attached to the god Apollo in the epigraphy,1375 and moreover, there is no archaeological data indicating a healing cult attached to Albiorica.

Fig. 10: Altar from Saint-Saturnin d’Apt dedicated to the goddess Albioric(a)e or the god Albiorix. In the Musée Lapidaire d’Avignon. ILN IV 95.

Rigani appears beside the name of Rosmerta on the Gallo-Latin graffiti from Lezoux either as a divine name referring to an individual goddess, or as an attributive byname* of Rosmerta, or as a word designating a real human queen.1376Regina is also given as an epithet to the goddess Epona in various inscriptions from present-day Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Croatia.1377 Rigani is itself cognate with god bynames*, such as Mars Rigas in Malton (GB),1378 Mars Rigisamus in Bourges (Cher) and West Coker (GB),1379 and Mars Rigonemetis (‘King of the Sanctuary’) in Nettleham (GB).1380

In addition to being mentioned in Irish mythology and Gallo-British epigraphy, the goddess termed Rigani also appears in Welsh medieval literature. One of the most important female mythological characters of the Mabinogi bears the name of Rhiannon, which comes from an old Celtic word *Rīgantonā, meaning the ‘Divine, Great Queen’.1381 The first branch of the Mabinogi, entitled Pwyll, recounts that Rhiannon, daughter of Hyfiid Hen, was given in marriage to Pwyll (‘Intelligence, Judgment’),1382 Prince of Dyfed, who had been mesmerized after seeing her riding on a white horse. His rival Gwawl, son of the goddess Clud, stole Rhiannon from him at his wedding-feast by tricking him. Pwyll then killed Gwawl to recover his fiancé. When Rhiannon’s son, Pryderi, was abducted on the night he was born (May Eve), she was accused of murdering him. He was in fact being reared by Teyrnon Twrf Liant, Lord of Gwent. Her punishment, which lasted seven years, consisted in waiting at the horse-block outside the palace gate and offering a ride on her back to any visitor. In the third branch, entitled Manawydan, Pryderi became King and Rhiannon married Manawydan after Pwyll’s death. The kingdom was then devastated by a mystical fog, which was cast by Llwyd the magician, who was seeking revenge for Gwawl’s murder. After being imprisoned in Annwyfn for a long time, Rhiannon and Pryderi were eventually freed by Manawydan. Rhiannon thus perfectly fulfils the role of sovereign implied by her name.

Functions: Warrioresses or Witches?

Being war-goddesses, the functions and roles of the Mórrígain, Badb and Macha or Nemain are mainly described in three famous mythic battles: Cath Muige Tuired Cunga [‘The First Battle of Moytura’], Cath Maige Tuired [‘The Second Battle of Moytirra’] and Táin Bó Cuailnge [‘The Cattle Raid of Cooley’]. Cath Muige Tuired Cunga relates the war opposing the Tuatha Dé Danann to the Fir Bolg, who refused to give half of their territory up to them. Cath Maige Tuired narrates the famous battle between the Tuatha Dé Danann, led by the powerful Lug Lámhfhada (‘Long-Armed’), and the obscure race of the Fomhoire, commanded by Balor of the Evil Eye. Táin Bó Cuailnge, a saga dating from the 11th c., describes the cattle-raid launched by Queen Medb of Connachta against Ulster and its young hero Cú Chulainn.

Battle Sorceresses

          Druidic Magic

Cath Muige Tuired Cunga [‘The First Battle of Moytura’] mentions twice that Badb, Macha and the Mórrígain are part of the contingent of the Tuatha Dé Danann. They are the only female characters, together with the goddesses personifying Ireland, that is Danann, Éire, Banba and Fótla, to take part in the battle. This tends to indicate that the land-goddesses are the ones who become endowed with war-like traits in time of insecurity and peril and have the ability to protect their land and people. The text emphasizes the magical faculties of the war-goddesses, for they are called the trí bantuathacha, that is ‘three sorceresses’:

‘Rocoraiged catha Tuath nDe Danann isin mag anoir cach ndirech. Tangadur Fir Bolg isin mag aníar ana nagaid. Is iad taisig roergedur re Tuathaib De Danann isin lo sin .i. Ogma 7 Midir 7 Bodb Derg 7 Dian Cecht 7 Aengaba n hIruaithe. Rachmaitne lib, ar na hingena .i. Badb 7 Macha 7 Morigan 7 Danann.

The battalions of the Tuatha De Danann were straightaway drawn up in the plain to the east ; and the Fir Bolg came into the plain against them. The chiefs who went out in front of the Tuatha De Danann on that day were Ogma, Midir, Bodb Derg, Diancecht, and Aengaba of Norway. ‘We will go with ye’, said the maidens, i.e. Badb and Macha and Morigan and Danann.1383
Tangadur a tus in chatha le Tuathaib De Danann .i. in Dagda Mór 7 Ogma 7 Alla 7 Bres 7 Delbaeth, cuig meic Eladain meic Delbaith […] na tri rigna .i. ere 7 Fotla 7 Banba, 7 a tri bantuathacha .i. Badb 7 Macha 7 Morigan, Be Chuille 7 Danann a da mbuime.

In the van of the Tuatha De Danann advanced the Dagda, Ogma, Alla, Bres, and Dealbaeth, the five sons of Elatha [etc…] the three queens, Ere, Fotla and Banba, and the three sorceresses, Badb, Macha and Morigan, with Bechuille and Danann their two foster-mothers.1384

The same text features the trio as terrifying witches, who do not use weapons to fight the enemies but magical powers through which they succeed in destabilizing, weakening and filling the foe with terror. The battle started with Badb, Macha and the Mórrígain throwing horrific showers of sorcery, blood and fire onto the Fir Bolg, who were then immobilized for three days and three nights in a row:

‘Is ann sin dochuaidh Badhbh 7 Macha 7 Morrigha gu Cnoc Gabala na nGiall 7 gu Tulaigh techtairechta na tromsluagh, gu Temraig, 7 do feradar cetha doilbthe draidechta 7 cithnela cothaigetha ciach 7 frasa tromaidble tened, 7 dortad donnfala do shiltin as in aeer i cennaib na curad, 7 nir legset scarad na scailedh do Feraib Bolg co cenn tri la 7 tri naidche.

It was then that Badb and Macha and Mórrígain went to the Knoll of the Taking of the Hostages, and to the Hill of Summoning of Hosts of Tara, and sent forth magic showers of sorcery and compact clouds of mist and a furious rain of fire, with a downpour of red blood from the air on the warriors’ heads; and they allowed the Fir Bolg neither rest nor stay for three days and nights.1385

Similarly in Cath Maige Tuired [‘The Second Battle of Moytirra’], when Lugh Samhildánach (‘the one who possesses all the arts’),1386 asked the Tuatha Dé Danann one after the other what power he or she could wield in the battle, the Mórrígain answered that she could resist the attack, foresee the deeds and bring death upon the foes:

‘“Os tussa, a Morríghan,” ol Lug, “cía cumang ?”
“Ní anse,” ol sí, “ar-rosisor; dosifius do-sseladh; ar-roselus, aros-dibu nos-ríastais.”

“And you, Mórrígain,” said Lug, “what power?”
“Not hard to say,” she said. “I have stood fast; I shall pursue what was watched; I will be able to kill; I will be able to destroy those who might be subdued.”1387

Her answer infers that she did not need to take up arms to fight. Her weapons were her supernatural and visionary powers. Immediately after Lug managed to destroy the petrifying eye of his grandfather Balor by casting a sling stone into it, which marked a turning point in the battle against the Fomhóire, the Mórrígain intoned an incantation to motivate the warriors so that they would be able to overwhelm the foes. Thanks to her magical chant and support, she led them to victory:

‘Tánic in Morrígan ingen Ernmusa anduidhe 7 boí oc nertad Túath nDéa co fertois an cath co dúr 7 co dícrai. Conid ann rocachain in laíd-se sís: “Afraigid rig don cath! […]”

Then the Mórrígain the daughter of Ernmas came, and she was strengthening the Tuatha Dé Danann to fight the battle resolutely and fiercely. She then chanted the following poem: “Kings arise to the battle! […]”1388

It seems thus that the Irish war-goddesses were envisaged by the medieval writers as terrifying sorceresses using supernatural powers, conjurations and incantations to impel the troops to action and attack the enemies.


Being magicians, the war-goddesses have the faculty of turning into otherworld beautiful ladies, monstrous old women or animals, generally with the aim of approaching, tricking and assaulting the foes. The pattern of the metamorphosis is typical of female supernatural figures in mythology and folklore.1389 As detailed above, the most famous mutation of the war-goddess is undeniably the crow or raven which stands for a death omen, but the Mórrígain can also take on other forms. At the beginning of Táin Bó Cuailnge [‘The Cattle Raid of Cooley’], it is related that the Mórrígain decided not to side with Cú Chulainn but to combat him, because the hero had refused her advances when she had come to him metamorphosed as a young woman of surpassing beauty.1390 She then foretold him that she would drive the cattle against him and attack him in the form of an eel. She would then come back to him in the shape of a red hornless heifer and in the form of a she-wolf during his duel with Lóch, one of Medb’s warriors. The presage was fulfilled but Cú Chulainn, thanks to his immeasurable strength, managed to repel the three assaults of the goddess and to wound her in the ribs, the eye and the leg:

‘Ó ro chomraicset íarom ind fir forsind áth 7 ό ro gabsat oc glíaid 7 oc imesorcain and 7 ό ro gab cách díb for trúastad a chéli, focheird ind escongon trí ol im c[h]ossa Con Chulaind co mboí fáen fortarsna isind áth ina ligu. Danautat Lόch cosin chlaidiub combu chrόderg in t-áth día fulriud. […] La sodain atraig 7 benaid in n-escongain co mebdatár a hasnai indi 7 comboing in cethri darsna slúagu sair ar écin co mbertatár a puple inna n-adarcaib lasa torandcless darigénsat in dá láth gaile isind áth. Tanautat-som in tsod meic tíre. Doimairg na bú fair síar. Léicid-som cloich asa tailm co mebaid a súil ina cuid. Téite i rricht samaisce maíle derge. Muitti riasna búaib forsna linni 7 na háthu. Is and asbert-som: ‘Ní airciu a n-átha la linni. Léicid-seom cloich don tsamaisc maíl deirg co memaid a gergara foí.

Then when the combatants met on the ford and began to fight and to strike one another and when each began to belabour the other, the eel twined itself in three coils round Cú Chulainn’s feet so that he fell prostrate athwart the ford. Lόch attacked him with the sword until the ford was blood-red with his gore […] Whereupon Cú Chulainn arose and struck the eel and its ribs were broken within it, and the cattle rushed eastwards over the army, carrying off the tents on their horns, so great was the thunder-feat of the two warriors in the ford. Then she-wolf attacked him and drove the cattle on him westwards. He threw a stone from his sling and her eye broke in her head. Then she went in the guise of a red hornless heifer and the cattle stampeded into the streams and fords. Cú Chulainn said then: ‘I cannot see the fords for the streams.’ He cast a stone at the red hornless heifer and her leg broke.1391

After the attack, the Mórrígain transformed herself into a one-eyed and half-blind old woman who was engaged in milking a cow with three teats. She then succeeded in tricking Cú Chulainn into curing the injuries he had previously inflicted on her. The hero, who was thirsty after the fighting, drank the milk of the cow three times without knowing that each time he would drink the milk from a teat he would heal a part of the Mórrígain’s body.

          The Shriek

Táin Bó Cuailnge [‘The Cattle Raid of Cooley’] several times mentions that the attacks of Nemain engendered terror and throw the army into disarray. Nemain embodies all the feelings of fright, panic, anguish, alarm and suffering that human beings undergo when they approach death. By simply conjuring up in her enemies those terrifying feelings, Nemain can provoke hundreds of sudden deaths:

‘Dosfóbair thrá ind Némain la sodain 7 níp sí sin adaig ba sámam dóib la buadris ind athig triana chotlud. Foscerdat inna buidne fo chétóir 7 focherd dírna mór din tslóg co luid Medb día chosc.

Thereupon the Némain, that is, the war-goddess, attacked them. That was not the quietest of nights for them with the trance-speech of the boorish Dubthach as he slept. The hosts rose up at once and the army was thrown into confusion until Medb came and quelled them.1392
Cordas mesc ind Némain forsin tslóg. Dollotár i n-armgrith cethri chóiced Érend im rennaib a sleg 7 a n-arm fodessin co n-erbaltatár cét láech díb do úathbas 7 cridenes ar lár in dúnaid 7 in longpairt in n-aidchi sin.

And Némain, attacked the host, and the four provinces of Ireland made a clamour of arms round the points of their own spears and weapons so that a hundred warriors among them fell dead of fright and terror in the middle of the fortress and of the encampment on that night.1393
Cotmesca ind Némain forsin slog. Adbail cét fer díb.

Nemain the war-goddess attacked the host. A hundred of them fell dead.1394

The terror penetrating the hearts of the warriors is usually caused by the shriek of the war-goddess. The cry is so piercing and appaling that it kills instantly. Táin Bó Cuailnge indeed relates that Badb, Bé Neit (replacing the Mórrígain) and Nemain hover over the battlefield screaming, causing hundreds of terror-strieken warriors to die:

‘Imthús immorro fer nÉrind, cotagart Badb 7 Bé Néit 7 Némain forru ind aidchi sin for Gáirig 7 Irgáirich conidapad cét lóech díb ar úathbás. Nírbo hísin adaig ba sámam dóib.

But as for the men of Ireland, Badb and Bé Néit and Némain shrieked above them that night in Gáirech and Irgáirech so that a hundred of their warriors died of terror. That was not the most peaceful night for them.1395

The theme of the shriek is evoked again in a passage of a 11th-century historical tale entitled Fleadh Duin Na n-Gedh, ocus Tucait Catha Muigi Rath, Inso [‘The Banquet of Dún na nGédh1396 and the cause of the Battle of Magh Rath’]. The text relates the course of the Battle of Magh Rátha (Moira, Co. Down), which occurred in 637 according to the annalist Tighernach.1397 The battle opposed the king of the Uí Néill, Domhnall mac Aeda (from AD 628 to 642) to the king of Ulster, Congal Caech, who was supported by the Scottish forces of Domhnall Breac, sovereign of the Dál Riada tribe of western Scotland.1398 The battle turned out to be an immense slaughter. Congal Caech and Domhnall Breac fell and Suibhne, son of Colman Cuar, was driven mad. Amongst the terrible bloodshed the figure of the Mórrígain appears. She manifests as a dreadful and sinister old woman (cailleach) floating over the battlefield and terrifying the warriors with her piercing cry:

‘Fuil os a chind ag eigmigh / Caillech lom, luath ag leimnig /Os eannaib a narm sa sciath, / Is i in Morrigu mongliath.

There is over his head shrieking / A lean, nimble hag, hovering / Over the points of their weapons and shields: / She is the grey-haired Morrigu.1399

Harbingers of Death

          The Seer

Following on from their function of sorceress, the war-goddesses also possess the attribute of foretelling forthcoming battles, massacres or deathly events. In Cath Maige Tuired [‘The Second Battle of Moytirra’], the Mórrígain, after her tryst with the Dagda at the ford of the river Uinsinn, in Co. Sligo, predicted the imminent battle which would break out between the Tuatha Dé Danann and the sinister Fomhoire:

‘Itbert-si íarum frisin Dagdae deraghdis an Fomore a tír .i. a Maug (S)cé[t]ne, 7 ara garudh an Dagdae óes ndánu Érionn aro cend-si for Áth Unsen ; 7 noragad-si hi Scétne do admillid [ríg] na Fomore .i. Indench mac Déi Domnann a ainm, 7 dohérudh-si crú a cride 7 áirned a gailie úadh. Dobert-si didiu a dí bois den crú-sin deno slúagaib bátar ocon indnaidhe for Áth Unsen. Baí “Áth Admillte” íarum a ainm ónd admillid-sin an ríog. Degníth íerum lesin óes ndánou ind sen, 7 docachnotar brechtau for slúagaib na Fomore.

Then she told the Dagda that the Fomoire would land at Mag Céidne, and that he should summon the áes dána 1400of Ireland to meet her at the Ford of the Unshin, and she would go into Scétne to destroy Indech mac Dé Domnann, the king of the Fomoire, and would take from him the blood of his heart and the kidneys of his valor. Later she gave two handfuls of that blood to the hosts that were waiting at the Ford of Unshin. Its name became ‘The Ford of Destruction’ because of that destruction of the king. So the áes dána did that, and they chanted spells against the Formorian hosts.1401

At the end of the battle, the Mórrígain went to the various sídh (otherworld places) to report the victory of the Tuatha Dé Danann over the Fomhoire and foretold the forthcoming violence, plagues and deaths:

‘ĺar mbrisiud íerum an catha 7 íar nglanad ind áir, fochard an Morrígan ingen Ernmais do táscc an catha-sin 7 an coscair móair forcóemnochair ann do rídingnaib Érenn 7 dia sídhcairib, 7 dia arduscib 7 dia inberaiph. Conid do sin inneses Badb airdgníomha beus. […] Boí-si íarum oc taircetul deridh an betha ann beus, 7 oc tairngire cech uilc nobíad ann, 7 cech teadma 7 gac[h] díglau; conid ann rocachain an laid-se sís […]

Then after the battle was won and the slaughter had been cleaned away, the Mórrígain, the daughter of Ernmas, proceeded to announce the battle and the great victory which had occurred there to the royal heights of Ireland and to its síd-hosts, to its chief waters and to its rivermouths. And that is the reason Badb still relates great deeds. […] She also prophesied the end of the world, foretelling every evil that would occur then, and every disease and every vengeance; and she chanted the following poem […]1402

Similarly, in Táin Bó Cuailnge [‘The Cattle Raid of Cooley’], the Mórrígain prophecied twice the terrible battle opposing the Ulstermen to the Connachta and the violence the war would engender. At the very beginning of the Táin, the Mórrígain, in the shape of a bird, perched on a pillar-stone and described the impending suffering to the bull:

‘Céin bátár didiu in tslóig oc tochim Maige Breg, forrumai Allechtu colléic, noch is í in Mórrígan són i ndeilb eúin co mboí forsin chorthi hi Temair Cúalngi 7 asbert frisin tarb: “In fitir in dub dusáim can eirc n-echdaig dál désnad fiacht fíach nad eól ceurtid namaib ar túaith Brega bíth i ndaínib tathum rún rofíastar dub día n-ísa maí muin tonna fér forglass for laich lilestai áed ág asa mag meldait slóig scoith nía boidb bógeimnech feochair fíach fir máirm rád n-ingir cluiph Cualngi coigde día bás mórmacni iar féic muintire do écaib.”

While the army was going over Mag mBreg Allecto came for a while, that is, the Mórrígain, in the form of a bird, which perched on the pillar-stone in Temair Cúailnge and said to the bull: “Does the restless Black Bull know (it) without destructive falsehood? […] I have a secret that the Black Bull will know if he grazes (?) … on the green grass … Fierce is the raven, men are dead, a sorrowful saying … every day the death of a great tribe …”1403

It is also related that the Mórrígain had a terrifying and sanguinary vision in the middle of the battle. She foretold the frenzy of the forthcoming fighting and the suffering and death of many warriors:

‘Is ann sin asbert in Mórrígan isin dorbles itir in dá dúnad: “Crenaid brain bráigde fer. Bruinded fuil. Feochair cath. Coinmid luind Mesctuich tuind taib im thuill im níthgalaib iar luimnich luud fianna fetal ferda fir Crúachan cotascrith imm ardbith cuirither cath ar cosa alailiu cén mair hUltaib, mairc Iarnaib, mairc d’Ultaib immorro, cén mair Iarnaib. Is ed dobreth hi clu[a]saib Iairn, mairc hUltaib ol niscainedar a ngle.”

Then the Mórrígain spoke in the dusk between the two encampments of the Ulstermen: “Ravens gnaw the necks of men. It swells blood. Battle is fought. Madness gathers (?). Hail to the men of Ulster! Woe to the Érainn! Woe to the men of Ulster ! Hail to the Érainn!” These were the words she whispered to the Érainn: “Woe to the men of Ulster for they have not won (?) the battle.”1404

          The ‘Washer of the Ford’

In a late 8th-century or early 9th-century poem, entitled Reicne Fothaid Canainne [‘The recitation of Fothadh Canainne’], the Mórrígain is described as a frightful and hideous woman who revels in bloodshed, laughs at the carnage, savours the suffering of the warriors and washes the entrails of the corpses on the battlefield. This poem is part of the Fianna Cycle, which brings together the legends attached to the mythical hero Fionn Mac Cumhaill and his troop of fianna or ‘hunter-warriors’.1405 The poem stages the death of the legendary ferocious hero-warrior Fothad Canainne, leader of a band of fianna in Connacht, who perished by the hand of Ailill Flann Beag, the fianna leader of Munster, in the fierce and bloody battle of Féic, situated near Millstreet, Co. Cork.1406 This war was the result of the romance and elopement of Fothad Canainne with the wife of Ailill Flann Beag. Slain and beheaded by Ailill on the very day of a planned tryst with the woman, the spirit or head of Fothad comes to her lover and recounts the course of the battle:

‘Atā[a]t immunn san c[h]an, mór fodb asa fordercc bol, dreman inathor dīmar, nodusnigh an Mórríoghan.
Donārlaith do bil ōige, isī cotanasōide, is mōr do fodboibh nigius, dremhan an caisgen tibhes.
Rolā a moing dar a hais, cride maith recht nodaais, cid gar di sund úan i mbé, nā fubthad uaman do gnē.
Mad cose dam fri gābud, nīmgaibt[h]i frim idsnádhud, a banscál, nogabtha for, cāin blāth fa roscarsamur.
There are around us here and there many spoils whose luck is famous; horrible are the huge entrails which the Mórrígain washes.
She has come to us from the edge of a pillar (?), ‘tis she who has egged us on; many are the spoils she washes, horrible the hateful laugh she laughs.
She has flung her mane over her back, a stout heart …(?) that hates her; though it is near us here where she is, let not fear attack thy shape.
If hitherto I have been in peril, … for my salvation ; O woman, … fair was the aspect under which we parted.1407

The sentence “she has come to us from the edge of a pillar (?)” may suggest that the Mórrígain hovers over the battelfield in the form of a bird. She is described encouraging the warriors to join in the fighting and fight fiercely (“’tis she who egged us on”) and sinisterly laughing at the massacre. The pattern of the washing of the corpses is generally not found in early, but in late medieval literature and folklore. It developed as a separate female supernatural character known as the ‘Washer of the Ford’ who appears to soldiers before a battle at the ford of a river and prefigures their death by cleansing their bloody garments and armour or their mutilated corpses: she is a terrifying death omen.1408 Hull explains:

‘In many of the ancient tales the forerunner of death takes the form either of a beautiful woman but weeping or of a gruesome and monstrous hag, who is found in the path of a host going to battle, or of a chief who is doomed to death, stooping over a stream, washing and wringing bloody garments and weapons. She is called the ‘Washer of the Ford’, and she informs the doomed man or host that it is their own bloody garments that she is wringing out.1409

As an illustration, Hull reports a story about the Norman Richard de Clare, who met this horrendous character while he was heading with his troop to Dysert O’Dea, a place situated near Corofin, in Co. Clare, to attack Conchubhar Ó Deaghdha, the chieftain of the Cineal Fearmaic and ransack the area in 1318.1410 The preternatrual female being was seen “washing armour and rich robes till the red gore churned and splashed through her hand” and it foretold Richard’s death. The next day, Richard and his son fell in the fighting and were found dead in the field near the fort of Dysert.

The ‘Washer of the Ford’ was sometimes associated with Badb or the Mórrígain in early Irish medieval literature, as illustrated by the 9th-century text of Bruiden Da Chocae [‘The Hostel of Da Choca’], which relates the death of the mythical king Cormac Mac Airt at this otherworldly place, situated at Breenmore Hill, near Athlone, in Co. Westmeath.1411 Before perishing, Cormac met a red supernatural female being, called Badb, who was washing a bloody chariot, with its cushions and harness at the ford of Athlone. She then chanted an incantation to him foreshadowing his imminent death:

‘Dollotar aside co Druim n-Airthir, frissa raiter in Garman, for brú Atha Luain. Scuirit a cairpthiu annside. A mbatar ann confacatar mnái ndeirc for u rind atha, 7 si ag nige a fonnad 7 a fortche 7 a fodbae. Intan no toirned a laimh sis bad erg sruthair na habae di chrú 7 d’fuil. […] Ocus is annside ro chachain si for lethchois 7 lethshuil dόibh annso, co n-epert:
“Nigim fodb rig dobeaba”
“A ben, ca fadb neigisi? (Cormac)
in Badb “T’fadhbh fessin sin, a Cormaic,
ocus fadhbh t’aesa grádha”
Thence they went to Druim Airthir, which is now called the Garman, on the brink of Athlone. Then they unyoke their chariots. As they were there they saw a red woman on the edge of the ford, washing her chariot and its cushions and its harness. When she lowered her hand, the bed of the river became red with gore and with blood. […] And then, standing on one foot, and with one eye closed, she chanted to them (Cromac and his messenger), saying:
“I wash the harness of a king who will perish”
“O woman, what harness whashest thou?” (Cormac)
The Badb “This is thine own harness, O Cormac,
And the harness of thy men of trust”1412

This supernatural creature foretelling death or disaster bears some similarities in character and functions with the Breton ‘Lavandières de nuit’, who are phantom washerwomen of the night, equivalent to Irish bean níochaín and Scottish bean nighe, ‘washerwoman’.1413 They are generally viewed as suffering souls expiating a crime or serious sins and are seen at night on the banks of rivers or swamps washing, scrubbing, laundering and beating a shroud, which symbolizes the death of the individual they met. The one who helps them to wring the cloth is doomed to death. Various Breton names designating the ‘Lavendières de Nuit’ were recorded. R. F. Le Men calls them couerezou, cowerezou, an archaistic spelling of kouerez, ‘washerwoman’ – from kouez, ‘laundry detergent’,1414 while Emile Souvestre names them kannerez, ‘laundress’,1415 and Anatole Le Braz maouès-noz, ‘women of the night’.1416 Claire Marmier’s translation of kannerez-noz by ‘singers of the night’ is inaccurate.1417

The Irish war-goddesses thus appear almost uniquely in the context of battle. Badb, Macha and Nemain are undoubtedly emanations of a primary goddess, that is the Mórrígain. She is the land-goddess who provides herself with war attributes in time of conflict to protect her territory and people. The triplication of her figure enhances her potency, giving her other facets, forms and powers. Contrary to the Greco-Roman war-goddesses, who take up arms to fight the foes, such as in the Trojan War,1418 the Irish war-goddesses have a purely mystical and supernatural influence on the battle, which complements the military role taken over by the gods. They floor the enemy by their mighty supernatural powers, motivate the troops by their chants and incantations to obtain victory, and fill the foe with panic and terror by their awful shrill screams which kill outright. Shape-shifting, the war-goddess can attack the warriors in diverse animal forms and is generally seen hovering over the battlefield in the form of a bird of prey, whose appearance is a presage of death. She is a seer who foresees and announces the forthcoming suffering, destruction and bloody battles. She is sometimes described as a frightening old lady revelling in slaughtering, laughing at the carnage and washing the entrails, bodies or weapons of the dead warriors; pattern which particularly developed in late medieval literature and folklore and took the form of a female death-messenger, strictly related to war, named the ‘Washer of the Ford’. Certain traits of the war-goddess survived in oral lore in other supernatural characters, such as the bean sí (banshee), the otherworld female death-messenger attached to Gaelic families.1419

Survivals of the Death-Messenger in Folklore

This idea of preternatural female beings prophesying death survived in the characters of the bean sí (Banshee) and Aoibheall, who appear to members of families to announce an imminent death. In Irish heroic lore, evil characters haunting the battle field, such as the bánánach, a female creature of the battleground and the bocánach, a sort of demon who has the appearance of a goat and shrieks in the air over the warriors, can also be regarded as echoes of the war-goddesses.1420 Those terms always appear together and in the plural form in stereotyed phrases: bánánaigh agus bocánaigh, that is ‘white spectres’ and ‘troublesome spectres’. They are a reflex of the general mediaeval European idea of demons. They are for instance described in a version of Táin Bó Cuailnge squealing and flying over Cú Chulainn when he fought his friend Ferdiad for three days at the ford Áth Fhirdiad in the river Dee (Ardee, Co. Louth):

‘So close was the fight they made now that their heads met above and their feet below and their arms in the middle over the rims and bosses of their shields. So close was the fight they made that they cleft and loosened their shields from their rims to their centres. So close was the fight which they made that they turned and bent and shivered their spears from their joints to their hefts! Such was the closeness of the fight which they made that the Bocanachs and Bananachs and wild people of the glens and demons of the air screamed from the rims of their shields, and from the hilts of their swords, and from the hefts of their spears. Such was the closeness of the fight which they made that they cast the river out of its bed and out of its course, so that it might have been a reclining and reposing couch for a king or for a queen in the middle of the ford, so that there was not a drop of water in it unless it dropped into it by the trampling and the hewing which the two champions and the two heroes made in the middle of the ford.1421

The bean sí (Banshee)

In folklore, the war-goddess has survived in some aspects in the supernatural personage of the Banshee, the anglicized form of Irish bean sí literally ‘woman-fairy’, i.e. ‘the otherworld lady’.1422 The tradition of the Banshee is widespread all over Ireland and the offshore islands.1423 She is a lonely female character who is usually attached to Irish families with a Gaelic surname, i.e. beginning with Ó or Mac, but this is not always the case. She is believed to come to announce the forthcoming death of member of the family, whether he lives in the area or abroad.1424 The sources generally indicate that she cannot be seen, except for a few which describe her as an ugly old woman wearing a shroud and combing her long grey hair while she is mourning for the impending deceased. All the collected statements concur to say that the announcement of the imminent death is conveyed by three piercing cries, which tend to be terrifying for the person who hears them. A testimony collected by Patricia Lysaght in Co. Laois perfectly illustrates this:

‘You know she would get on your nerves crying ; it’s terrible. It would bring the cold sweat out on you listening to her. This is mostly how you know that it was not something from here like.1425

In a tale entitled ‘The Banshee cries for the Boyles’, comprised in Henry Glassie’s Irish Folktales, the son relates his terrifying experience of the Banshee, who came to announce the death of his mother:1426

‘“I saw the Banshee when old Boyle’s mother died. I was coming home in the dusk with a load of sods, and the old grey horse and me mother with me.”
And she says to me, “Some poor woman has lost her man or maybe a son.” And the thing wore a shroud as if it had come from a coffin, and its hair was streaming in the wind. We both saw it.
And me mother, she says a prayer or maybe two. “That’s the Banshee”, says she.
“Aye, it cried for many an old family here, and some say it’s one that had gone before. Be that as it may, no human heart could utter such grief, so, mind ye, I doubt it.”1427

In the folk tradition of south-eastern Ireland, the Banshee bears names which are all derived from the name of the Irish goddess mentioned in the literary texts: Badb or Bodb. The badhbh-appellations differ in spelling and pronunciations from one county to another: badhb pronounced [bəib] in Waterford, south-Tipperary and south-Kilkenny; babha pronounced [bau] in Wexford, Carlow and south Kildare; and bo, or bodhbh chaointe (‘lamenting bodhbh’) in Kilkenny, mid-Tipperary and some parts of Laois.1428 The fact that the Banshee has names in the southern areas of the country similar to the name of the Irish war-goddess does not mean, however, that the Banshee is viewed in bird-shape like Badb, for she never appears in such a form in the folk legends. In addition to having this similar designation, one can notice that the Banshee and Bodhbh are both death-messengers, renowned for their shrill dreadful cries and generally described as ugly, frightful old women. It is significant that the crow is a fairly dreaded bird in folk superstition: it is regarded as a death omen coming from the otherworld.1429 It signifies either great misfortune or the imminent death of a member of the family of the person who sees such as bird. The raven thus clearly plays the part of the Banshee in folk beliefs. Nonetheless, some differences between the goddess and the fairy lady are noticeable. Contrary to the Badb, whose horrific shriek causes instant death and who delights in bloodshed on the battlefield, the Banshee or Bodhbh is not a hostile character and her scream is to be understood as a lament or wail, filled with sorrow and grief. She does not actually come to kill but to foretell death and to weep for the dead. She actually reflects the professional keening women, whose function is to mourn at wakes and funerals in Ireland.1430


Aoibheall, pronounced [ee-vul], is not to be considered as a goddess, but as a fairy lady belonging to the sphere of oral lore. She presides over the sídh of Craig Liath, a rock near Killaloe, in Co. Clare, where the tribe of the Dál gCais (later called O’Briens) had their stronghold from the 6th c. AD.1431 Her cult must have originally extended to the east of Co. Clare and the north-west of Co. Tipperary. Her name connotes heat and light and can be translated as ‘radiant’, ‘bright’ or ‘sparkling’.1432 The concept of brightness is found in other names of fairy ladies, such as Áine ‘brightness’, ‘glow’, ‘lustre’, who is the protectress of the Eóghanacht sept* and is associated with Cnoc Áine, the Hill of Knockainey in Co. Limerick.1433 It is clear that Aoibheall and Áine are folk survivals of the ancient territorial goddess, presiding over the land and protecting its people.

Aoibheall appears in Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh [‘The War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill’], detailing the invasions of Ireland by the Danes and other Norsemen. This late 11th-century text describes the historical Battle of Cluain Tairbh (Clontarf, Co. Dublin) which occurred in 1014 and opposed the Norse invaders to the Dál gCais sept* led by Brian Bóramha (AD 926-1014), who became King of all Ireland in 1002.1434 The Battle of Clontarf marked a turning point in the history of Ireland, for the Irish victory put an end to the growing Viking power in Ireland. The historical tale recounts that on the night before the battle, Aoibheall, the patroness of the Dál gCais sept*, came to Brian Bóramha and foretold that he would die in battle the following day, which actually happened. She also predicted that his eldest son would be King afterwards:

‘Táinig Aibhell Craige Léithe chugam araeir”, ar sé, “ocus ro innis damh go muirfidhe mé aniú, ocus adubhairt riom an chéd mhac dom chloinn do chífinn aniú gomadh é do ghebhadh righe tar m’éis, ocus bidh é Donnchadh eisein […]

“Aoibheall of Craglea came to me last night”, he said, “and told me that I would be killed today, and said to me that the first son of my family whom I would see today would get the kingdom after me, and that is Donnchadh […]”1435

In this passage, Aoibheall plainly fulfills the role of the Banshee. She is indeed the tribal spirit of the O’Briens who announces the imminent death of the King, as the Banshee is the guardian of some Irish families and comes to foretell the death of a family member. In her role as a foreteller of death, Aoibheall also appears to the two sons of Brian Bóramha: Donnchadh and his brother Murchadh.1436 In a poem written around the year 1370 by the celebrated poet Gofraidh Fionn Ó Dálaigh, who was a professional composer to several leading Munster families of the time such as the O’Briens, McCarthys, and Fitzgeralds,Aoibheall is also called banfháidh Ó mBriain, that is ‘the prophetess of the O’Briens’, which is redolent of her ‘bean sí nature’.1437 Hull, in her article entitled ‘Fate’ in the Encyclopaedia of Ethics and Religion, states that Aoibheall’s tradition as a banshee was still vivid in the 19th c. in the oral lore of Co. Clare: “The same goddess [Aoibheall] has been seen in recent times surrounded by twenty-five other banshees of Clare before an impending disaster.”1438

Interestingly, the fairy lady Áine has also survived as a bean sí in the folklore of the Moneymore-Cookstown area of Counties Tyrone and Derry, in the north of Ireland, where another hill called Cnoc Áine and a well named Tobar Áine are recorded in the parish Lios Áine (Lissan) which is named after her.1439 John O’Donovan, who went to the district in 1834 to collect folk accounts, indeed reports in Ordnance Suvey Letters Co. Londonderry (1834) that:

Áinehad been taken away at night by the wee folk from her husband’s side, and never returned. She is still living, and [is] particularly attached to the family of O’Corra, who are believed to be her descendants, because whenever one of them is about to die she is heard wailing in the most plaintive and heart-touching manner in the wild glen of Alt na Síon and adjacent to the fort of Lios Áine”.1440

The fact that she was related to a particular Irish family (O’Corra) and came to them to usher the death of a member of theirs by whining clearly indicates that Áine’s character had evolved into a Banshee at the beginning of the 19th c.

Gallo-British War Goddesses?


In comparison with Irish mythology, very little is known about possible Gallo-British goddesses of war: the data are almost non-existent and scattered. It is however certain that Celtic people venerated deities who had martial abilities and were specifically invoked in time of war, for several Gaulish sanctuaries dating from Celtic times are clearly devoted to war deities. Such is the case of the sanctuaries of Gournay-sur-Aronde (Oise) and Ribemont-sur-Ancre (Somme), excavated among others by Brunaux, who analyzed their organization and functions, and the possible religious rites attached to them. The war deities revered in those pre-Roman sanctuaries cannot be identified and remain anonymous. As Celtic people generally did not write, it is indeed impossible to find inscriptions on the sites. In view of the archaeological and ethnographic data, it is clear, however, that the sanctuaries were erected in honour of a deity presiding over war, battles and hero-warriors.

Gaulish Sanctuaries devoted to War-Deities

The sanctuary of Ribemont-sur-Ancre, dating from the 1st half of the 3rd c. BC, is composed of two enclosures different in shape, use and function: a 40 m2 quadrangular enclosure discovered in 1982 and a polygonal enclosure, situated forty metres away, unearthed in 2001.1441 Impressive amounts of iron weapons (swords, scabbards, spears, shields) together with human bones (legs, arms, pelvises, hands, feet, etc) belonging to about 1,000 men aged between 15 and 40 years old were collected in the two enclosures. The homogeneity and impressive number of human skeletons found together with their offensive weapons indicate that a battle took place in the area. The quadrangular enclosure was originally erected on a wooded mound which later became a sacred wood where the deity resided and human beings were not allowed (fig. 11). Around 20,000 metal pieces and human skeletons in pieces with no skulls, belonging to about 150 individuals, were excavated in this enclosure. According to Brunaux, these remains are undoubtedly those of enemy warriors killed in action.1442 While the skulls were kept by the victors as proof of their bravery – which is why they are missing from the ‘mass grave’ – the rest of the corpses together with their weapons and jewels were brought to the sanctuary as an offering to the war deity. Three ‘charnel houses’, i.e. cavities hollowed in the ground filled to the top with human and horse bones, were unearthed in the north-east, north-west and south-west corners of the enclosure.1443 These concave altars are understood as offering wells dedicated to the war deity dwelling in the enclosed sacred wood. The organization and function of the polygonal enclosure is studied earlier in this chapter.

Similarly, the sanctuary of Gournay-sur-Aronde, like those of Saint-Maur, Morvilliers-Saint-Saturnin and Estrées-Saint-Denis, is undoubtedly a war sanctuary, for significant and impressive amounts of human skeletons and weapons were excavated there.1444 Contrary to Ribemont-sur-Ancre, Gournay-sur-Aronde was not erected after a specific battle and does not consist of skeletons and weapons coming from a homogenous mass. The analysis of the weapons found on the site (250 pieces of armour, comprising each time a sword with its scabbard, a shield and a spear) reveals considerable geographical and chronological disparity. The weapons indeed date from the beginning of the 3rd c. BC to the middle of the 2nd c. BC, spreading thus over a period of 120 or 130 years, and come from various places and peoples. Gournay-sur-Aronde can therefore be understood as a sanctuary where warriors used to go to pray and pay homage to a war deity by depositing and offering their trophies and spoils of war. The sanctuary is made of a massive enclosure, composed of an impressive fence and a double ditch, with an imposing entrance door, where the skulls of the foes were nailed up and the weapons exposed for several years until oxidization, before being thrown into the trench (fig. 12). In the centre of the enclosure was situated a hollow or concave altar where entire bovids were deposited as an offering to the god and left to decompose and rot. Putrefaction of the corpses and corrosion of the weapons was part of a whole sacred rite held in honour of the martial deity. A small wood, materializing the divine presence, was located to the north of the offering well.

Fig. 11: Map of the quadrangular and polygonal enclosures of the Gaulish war sanctuary of Ribemont-sur-Ancre (Somme). Brunaux, 2004, p. 115, fig. 52.

Fig. 12: Reconstruction of the Gaulish war sanctuary of Gournay-sur-Aronde (Oise). Brunaux, 2004, p. 92 , fig. 38.

The two sanctuaries produce evidence of a significant cult rendered to war deities in Celtic times, but they unfortunately do not give information on the identity of those divinities. Neither do the Classical texts shed light on that subject. The only reference to a martial goddess is made by the Greek historian Dio Cassius in his History of Rome (LXII, 6). Dio Cassius recounts the historical rebellion of Queen Boudicca against the Roman invasion in 60 AD. Boudicca, whose name means ‘the Victorious’,1445 was the wife of Pratustagus, the leader of the Iceni, a tribe situated in today Norfolk, in eastern Britain.1446 After her husband was slaughtered by the Romans, she raised a revolt, with the help of the neighbouring sept*, the Trinovantes, and plundered and burnt the Roman cities Camulodunum (Colchester) and Londinium (London). Dio Cassius specifies that Boudicca required the divine help and protection of a goddess named Andraste, whose name was explained by Holder as An-drasta, ‘the Invincible’, with a negative prefix an, ‘non’ and a root drastos, ‘to vanquish, to oppress’.1447 While invoking the goddess, Boudicca let a hare abscond from her breast to foresee the forthcoming turn of events:

‘At these words, employing a species of divination, she let a hare escape from her bosom, and as it ran in what they considered a lucky direction, the whole multitude shouted with pleasure, and Buduica raising her hand to heaven, spoke: “I thank thee, Andraste, and call upon thee, who are a woman, being myself also a woman that rules not burden-bearing Egyptians like Nitocris, nor merchant Assyrians like Semiramis (of these things we have heard from the Romans), nor even the Romans themselves, as did Messalina first and later Agrippina;–at present their chief is Nero, in name a man, in fact a woman, as is shown by his singing, his playing the cithara, his adorning himself:–but ruling as I do men of Britain that know not how to till the soil or ply a trade yet are thoroughly versed in the arts of war and hold all things common, even children and wives; wherefore the latter possess the same valour as the males: being therefore queen of such men and such women I supplicate and pray thee for victory and salvation and liberty against men insolent, unjust, insatiable, impious,–if, indeed we ought to term those creatures men who wash in warm water, eat artificial dainties, drink unmixed wine, anoint themselves with myrrh, sleep on soft couches with boys for bedfellows (and past their prime at that), are slaves to a zither-player, yes, an inferior zither-player. Wherefore may this Domitia-Nero woman reign no more over you or over me: let the wench sing and play the despot over the Romans. They surely deserve to be in slavery to such a being whose tyranny they have patiently borne already this long time. But may we, mistress, ever look to thee alone as our head.”1448

Further on in the text, Dio Cassius, referring to the sack of the two Roman cities by Boudicca, describes the atrocities committed on the prisoners in sacred places, notably in the ‘grove of Andate’, whom he equated with the Roman goddess Victory. Andate is highly likely to be the same goddess as Andraste. This shows the uncertainty of Dio Cassius as regards the exactitude of the name of the goddess honoured by the Iceni. Not being mentioned in any inscriptions, the spelling and meaning of the divine name Andraste or Andate remain quite uncertain. Some British scholars suggest that the names Andraste and Andarta are philologically linked and thus refer to the same deity.1449 This is however quite difficult to believe, for their respective names do not seem to have the same composition: An-draste (‘Unconquerable’) and And-arta (‘Great Bear’).

‘After a harangue of this general nature Buduica led her army against the Romans. The latter chanced to be without a leader for the reason that Paulinus their commander had gone on an expedition to Mona, an island near Britain. This enabled her to sack and plunder two Roman cities, and, as I said, she wrought indescribable slaughter. Persons captured by the Britons underwent every form of most frightful treatment. The conquerors committed the most atrocious and bestial outrages. For instance, they hung up naked the noblest and most distinguished women, cut off their breasts and sewed them to their mouths, to make the victims appear to be eating them. After that they impaled them on sharp skewers run perpendicularly the whole length of the body. All this they did to the accompaniment of sacrifices, banquets, and exhibitions of insolence in all of their sacred places, but chiefly in the grove of Andate,–that being the name of their personification of Victory, to whom they paid the most excessive reverence.1450

As the places of worship and the Classical texts do not give information, the identity of the Gallo-British goddesses of war can only be reconstructed through the study of the few existing iconographical samples and the meaning of the divine names.

Figurations on Coins: Human or Divine Warrioresses?

Several figurations on Gaulish coins are worth studying and analyzing. They all represent naked women who ride galloping mounts and possess martial attributes, such as the cart, the shield, the spear and the hilt of a knife. The certainty of the femininity of those riders resides in the fineness of the torso, the thinness of the arms and the round breasts, which clearly appear on the facsimiles.

A golden coin, probably dating from the 2nd c. BC, from the département of Loire, in the territory of the Turones, bears the representation of a woman, hair streaming in the wind, who stands on a cart, symbolized by a wheel, and holds the reins of a galloping horse (fig. 13).1451 The female charioteer wears a small skirt and brandishes an unidentifiable stick, probably a weapon, towards the front of the steed. Because of the gonfalon* flying on the right of the horse, Duval asserts that the charioteer is depicted entering the fray.

Fig. 13: Golden coin of the Turones and facsimile. On the obverse: a woman charioteer on a symbolical wagon, holding the reins of a horse. Diam: 2.5cm. Duval, 1987, p. 43, 5Aa (=BN 6422).

Third-century BC golden coins from the area of Rennes (Ille-et-Vilaine), in the territory of the Redones, have a naked woman riding a galloping steed without a saddle on the obverse (fig. 14).1452She brandishes a shield in her left hand, and a spear with two heads or a thunderbolt with three flashes of lightning in her right hand. The female rider is thus clearly a warrioress charging at the enemy. Similar types appear on other coins of the Redones, dated to the 2nd c. BC, where the naked female warrioress rides a charger with no saddle, holds a shield in her right hand and vertically brandishes the hilt of a knife or sword in her left hand (fig. 15).1453Under the horse appears a lyre.

Fig. 14: Golden coins from the area of Rennes, territory of the Redones. On the obverse: naked female rider, holding shield and spear or thunderbolt with three flashes of lightning. Diam: 2 cm. Duval, 1987, pp. 54, 57, 7A, 7B (=BN 6756, 6757A).

Fig. 15: Golden coins from the territory of the Redones. Left: Naked female rider, above a lyre, holding a shield in her right hand and touching the ear of the horse with the other one. Diam: 2 cm. Duval, 1987, p. 63, 8B (=BN 6711). Right: Naked female rider, above a lyre, holding a shield in her right hand and vertically brandishing the hilt of a knife or sword. Diam: 2cm. Duval, 1987, p. 61, 8A (=BN 6759).

A golden coin from the area of Amiens (Somme), in the territory of the Ambiani, probably dating from the 2nd c. BC, also has a naked female rider on the reverse (fig. 16).1454The woman rides two horses and is turned towards the onlooker. Her hair is done in two tousled buns on each side of her head and she wears a belt and a shoulder-cover. She holds a shield in her left hand and a huge torque* in her right hand. A long palm is represented flying over the shield. She does not have any offensive weapons and is not represented charging at the enemy: she rather seems to march past or parade. The shield is a symbol of war, while the palm is a symbol of glorification. As for the torque*, it is indicative of the divine nature of the rider or it accounts for the spoils of war she has brought from the battlefield. Jewels and weapons were indeed collected from the dead enemies at the end of a battle, because it was a symbol of the fighter’s valour.1455 They were generally taken and deposited in the sanctuary of the martial deity to thank him for his support and to honour his potency. As Brunaux explains, each warrior despoiled his victims of his possessions and usually brought them back to the city, proudly and solemnly marching past to the sound of songs of triumph.1456 This female rider must be an illustration of such a tradition. She appears indeed as the representation of a triumphant and glorified warrioress, coming back from the battlefield and showing her spoils of war.

Fig. 16: Golden coin of the Ambiani and facsimile. On the reverse: a female rider with a shield and torque*. Diam: 1.5cm. Duval, 1987, p. 49, 6Bb, 6Bsg (=BN 10379 = 10303A).

Finally, two golden coins from Ancenis (Loire-Atlantique) and Falaise (Calvados) have the figurations of running naked women holding offensive weapons in their hands. The coin from Ancenis, dated to the 3rd c. BC, has the representation of a naked woman with long hair walking fast and holding a sort of sickle in her right hand and an undetermined object in the other (fig. 17).1457 The second coin, dated to the 3rd c. BC, depicts a woman with long curly hair streaming in the air. The character is frantically racing and holds a two-edged sword in her left hand (fig. 17).1458 According to De Vries, they are the portrayal of women at war or martial goddesses.1459

Fig. 17: Facsimiles of golden coins from Ancenis (Loire-Atlantique) (left) and from Falaise (Calvados) (right), representing naked running women holding offensive weapons in their hands: war-like Furies or human warrioresses? De Vries, 1963, p. 144, fig. 5; Delestrée, 2004, n°2022; Guihard, 2008, p. 27, n°1.

The nudity of those war-like women can be explained by the fact that Celtic warriors were often seen entering the fray all naked with only weapons in their hands.1460This idea is attested by some iconographical devices1461 and Classical accounts. In The Library of History, Diodorus Siculus describes the helmets and weapons of the Celtic warriors and indicates they went into battle naked:

‘Some of them have iron cuirasses, chain-wrought, but others are satisfied with the armour which Nature has given them and go into battle naked. In place of the short sword they carry long broad-swords which are hung on chains of iron or bronze and are worn along the right flank. And some of them gather up their shirts with belts plated with gold or silver.1462

Similarly, Polybius (203-120 BC), in a passage of The Rise of the Roman Empire, which tells of the battle of Telamon in 225 BC opposing the Romans to an alliance of Gauls (Insubres, Boii, Taurisci and Gaesatae), recounts that the Gaesatae combatted naked. This is the reason why they were defeated by the Roman javelin-throwers:

‘[…]For their part the Romans felt encouraged at having trapped the enemy between their two armies, but at the samee time dismayed by the splendid array of the Celtic host and the ear-splitting din which they created. There were countless horns and trumpets being blown simultaneously in their ranks, and as the whole army was also shouting its war-cries, there arose such as babel of sound that it seemed to come not only from the trumpets of the soldiers bt from the whole surrounding countryside at once. Besides this the aspect and the movements of the naked warriors in the front ranks made a terrifying spectacle. They were all men of splendid physique and in the prime of life, and those in the leading companies were richly adorned with gold necklaces and bracelets. The mere sight of them was enough to arouse fear among the Romans, but at the same time the prospect of gaining so much plunder made them twice as eager to fight.
However, when the Roman javelin-throwers, following their regular tactics in Roman warfare, advanced in front of the legions and began to hurl their weapons thick and fast, the cloaks and trousers of the Celts in the rear ranks gave some effective protection, but for the naked warriors in front the situation was very different. They had not foreseen this tactic and found themselves in a difficult and helpless situation. The shield used by the Gauls does not cover the whole body, andd so the tall stature of these naked troops made the missiles all the more likely to find their mark. […] In this way the martial ardour of the Gaesatae was broken by an attack with the javelin.1463

By comparison with Polybius’ account, the various coins referred to above give the representations of two running female warrioresses holding weapons, a female charioteer and three different riders charging at the enemy and brandishing weapons: shields, spears, hilts of knife or sword. Those are clearly representations of warrioresses taking part in combat. The last figuration is that of a warrioress coming back from the battlefield, showing her spoils of war and glorified for her deeds. The female riders are not representations of the goddess Epona, who is portrayed riding a horse peacefully and is never associated with war aspects. Are those woman riders at full gallop representations of human or divine warrioresses? To answer that question it is first necessary to determine whether the Classical texts tell of Celtic women taking up arms and fighting side by side with men. While Irish mythology offers colourful descriptions of war-goddesses, data concerning possible Gallo-British divine warrioresses are near inexistent and sparse. As we have seen, Irish mythology does not tell of armed divine female riders taking part in battle, but of horrifying unarmed fighting ladies who take the shape of a crow, terrorize their foes and falter their courage by their appearance, shrieks and incantations, so could those female riders then be the figurations of Gaulish war-goddesses? The etymological, epigraphic and iconographical facts evidencing such a cult must therefore be analyzed.

Celtic Women at War?

Apart from the famous Queen Boudicca and Queen Cartimandua, very little is known about women at war in Celtic times. Nonetheless, contrary to what Brunaux maintains,1464 some texts do allude to the fact that Gaulish women took part in the fighting and probably played a significant role in times of conflict. In The Library of History, Diodorus Sicilius evokes the courage of Gaulish women, who are said to be as brave as men: “The women of the Gauls are not only like the men in their great stature but they are a match for them in courage as well.”1465 In Historiae, Ammianus Marcellinus, a 4th-century AD Roman historian – using earlier sources – specifies that Gaulish women could come to their husbands’ aid in time of war. He describes them as fierce, ferocious and terrifying fighters of impressive size and strength. This passage could evidence that women were present on the battlefield, fighting side by side with their husbands:

‘Celsioris staturae et candidi paene Galli sunt omnes et rutili luminumque torvitate terribiles, avidi iurgiorum et sublatius insolentes. nec enim eorum quemquam adhibita uxore rixantem, multo fortiore et glauca, peregrinorum ferre poterit globus, tum maxime cum illa inflata cervice suffrendens ponderansque niveas ulnas et vastas admixtis calcibus emittere coeperit pugnos ut catapultas tortilibus nervis excussas.

Nearly all the Gauls are of a lofty stature, fair, and of ruddy complexion; terrible from the sternness of their eyes, very quarrelsome, and of great pride and insolence. A whole troop of foreigners would not be able to withstand a single Gaul if he called his wife to his assistance, who is usually very strong, and with blue eyes; especially when, swelling her neck, gnashing her teeth, and brandishing her sallow arms of enormous size, she begins to strike blows mingled with kicks, as if they were so many missiles sent from the string of a catapult.1466

In his Life of Marius, Plutarch relates the war between the probably Celtic tribe of the Ambrones and the Roman army, led by Marius, who defeated them at Aix-en-Provence in 102 BC. He explains that the women, witnessing the rout of their soldiers, took up arms (swords and axes) and went to their assistance. They mixed with the warriors and fiercely fought the Romans, crying out in rage, braving the assaults of the foes and undergoing blows and injuries:

‘Well, then, the Ambrones became separated by the stream; for they did not all succeed in getting across and forming an array, but upon the foremost of them the Ligurians at once fell with a rush, and the fighting was hand-to‑hand. Then the Romans came to the aid of the Ligurians, and charging down from the heights upon the Barbarians overwhelmed and turned them back. Most of the Ambrones were cut down there in the stream where they were all crowded together, and the river was filled with their blood and their dead bodies; the rest, after the Romans had crossed, did not dare to face about, and the Romans kept slaying them until they came in their flight to their camp and waggons. Here the women met them, swords and axes in their hands, and with hideous shrieks of rage tried to drive back fugitives and pursuers alike, the fugitives as traitors, and the pursuers as foes; they mixed themselves up with the combatants, with bare hands tore away the shields of the Romans or grasped their swords, and endured wounds and mutilations, their fierce spirits unvanquished to the end. So, then, as we are told, the battle at the river was brought on by accident rather than by the intention of the commander.1467

A passage in Tacitus’ Annals is also worth mentioning here, for it alludes to women who could have fulfilled ritual and religious roles on the battlefield, possibly in chanting curses, spells or conjurations for the safety of their own and for the defeat of the foes. It recounts that the Roman Corbulon, to vie with the commander of Britain Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, renowned for his courage and military actions, decided to invade the Isle of Mona (Anglesey), situated to the north-west of Wales. On the shore, battalions of soldiers were waiting for them. A troop of terrifying, frenzied women, with ruffled hair and black dresses, dashed among the ranks of the warriors, brandishing burning torches, while druids recited incantations:

‘Stabat pro litore diversa acies, densa armis virisque, intercursantibus feminis; in modum Furiarum veste ferali, crinibus deiectis faces praeferebant; Druidaeque circum, preces diras sublatis ad caelum manibus fundentes, novitate aspectus perculere militem ut quasi haerentibus membris immobile corpus vulneribus praeberent. dein cohortationibus ducis et se ipsi stimulantes ne muliebre et fanaticum agmen pavescerent, inferunt signa sternuntque obvios et igni suo involvunt. praesidium posthac impositum victis excisique luci saevis superstitionibus sacri: nam cruore captivo adolere aras et hominum fibris consulere deos fas habebant. haec agenti Suetonio repentina defectio provinciae nuntiatur.

On the shore stood the opposing army with its dense array of armed warriors, while between the ranks dashed women, in black attire like the Furies, with hair dishevelled, waving brands. All around, the Druids, lifting up their hands to heaven, and pouring forth dreadful imprecations, scared our soldiers by the unfamiliar sight, so that, as if their limbs were paralysed, they stood motionless, and exposed to wounds. Then urged by their general’s appeals and mutual encouragements not to quail before a troop of frenzied women, they bore the standards onwards, smote down all resistance, and wrapped the foe in the flames of his own brands. A force was next set over the conquered, and their groves, devoted to inhuman superstitions, were destroyed. They deemed it indeed a duty to cover their altars with the blood of captives and to consult their deities through human entrails.1468

Other texts tend to prove that women had a role of protection and encouragement in time of war. They are described standing in the rear of the army or on the edge of the battlefield. They must have witnessed the valiant deeds of their warriors, brought them good luck and roused them. In Tacitus’ Annals – which relate the 60 AD rebellion of the Celtic tribe of the Iceni, led by Queen Boudicca, against the Romans, led by the commander Gaius Suetonius Paulinus -, the wives of the soldiers are said to have been standing in carts on the edge of the battlefield to witness the victory, encourage the soldiers by their presence and bring good luck to them:

‘Iam Suetonio quarta decima legio cum vexillariis vicesimanis et proximis auxiliares, decem ferme milia armatorum erant, cum omittere cunctationem et congredi acie parat. deligitque locum artis faucibus et a tergo silva clausum, satis cognito nihil hostium nisi in fronte et apertam planitiem esse sine metu insidiarum. igitur legionarius frequens ordinibus, levis circum armatura, conglobatus pro cornibus eques adstitit. at Britannorum copiae passim per catervas et turmas exultabant, quanta non alias multitudo, et animo adeo feroci ut coniuges quoque testis victoriae secum traherent plaustrisque imponerent quae super extremum ambitum campi posuerant.

Suetonius had the fourteenth legion with the veterans of the twentieth, and auxiliaries from the neighbourhood, to the number of about ten thousand armed men, when he prepared to break off delay and fight a battle. He chose a position approached by a narrow defile, closed in at the rear by a forest, having first ascertained that there was not a soldier of the enemy except in his front, where an open plain extended without any danger from ambuscades. His legions were in close array; round them, the light-armed troops, and the cavalry in dense array on the wings. On the other side, the army of the Britons, with its masses of infantry and cavalry, was confidently exulting, a vaster host than ever had assembled, and so fierce in spirit that they actually brought with them, to witness the victory, their wives riding in waggons, which they had placed on the extreme border of the plain.1469

Although it concerns a Germanic sept*, a similar account related by Tacitus in The Histories, is interesting to refer to here – Germanic and Celtic peoples were of different origin and culture, but they had practices and customs in common, on account of their proximity. Tacitus, reporting the 69-70 AD revolt of the Germanic tribe of the Batavians against Roman rule, recounts that their leader, Gaius Julius Civilis, asked the women to stand in the rear of the army to rouse the warriors. The text mentions the powerful shrieks of women:

‘Civilis captarum cohortium signis circumdatus, ut suo militi recens gloria ante oculos et hostes memoria cladis terrerentur, matrem suam sororesque, simul omnium coniuges parvosque liberos consistere a tergo iubet, hortamenta victoriae vel pulsis pudorem. ut virorum cantu, feminarum ululatu sonuit acies, nequaquam par a legionibus cohortibusque redditur clamor.

Civilis, surrounding himself with the standards of the captured cohorts, to keep their recent honours before the eyes of his own men, and to terrify the enemy by the remembrance of defeat, now directed his own mother and sisters, and the wives and children of all his men, to stand in the rear, where they might encourage to victory, or shame defeat. The war-song of the men, and the shrill cries of the women, rose from the whole line, and an answering but far less vigorous cheer came from the legions and auxiliaries.1470

From this, it follows that Celtic women were not left out in time of conflict and were seen on or in the vicinity of the battlefield. Even though one of the texts mentions that women could have had recourse to weapons and fighting, it is difficult to assert that women directly took part in the conflict with arms, for no archaeological evidence attests such an idea. Anyhow, the Classical texts never tell of naked female charioteers or riders brandishing weapons and fighting the foes. Consequently, the texts do not provide conclusive evidence that the figurations on the coins of the Teurones, Ambiani and Redones are representations of human warrioresses. The role of women in time of war was certainly more linked to the ritual and religious sphere. Being seen on the edge of the battlefield or at the rear of the army, women could have participated not physically but spiritually in the fighting by chanting incantations to stimulate their army and bring them good luck or by cursing the enemies to weaken them. This is very likely, for the Irish war-goddesses are said to fulfil such a role. They do not take part in the fighting, but recite conjurations, cast terrible spells and pronounce magic formulas to overwhelm the foes and motivate their troops. They are fearsome magicians and death prophetesses rather than fighting women in the proper sense.

If therefore those figurations on coins are not the portrayals of real warrioresses, could they have been representations of divine war-goddesses? Is there any evidence in the archaeology of Gaul and Britain which could produce proof of the existence of Gallo-British war-goddesses?

Divine Goddess-Names related to Protection and War


Several goddesses might be related to protection and war on account of the significance of their names, which denote protection, courage, strength, war fury and victory. Relying on etymology* only, however, is problematic. The meaning of some divine names remains uncertain and questionable. In other cases, several etymologies can be accepted for the same name or epithet, such as Belisama, who can be understood as ‘the Most Brilliant’ or ‘the Most Powerful’. Inducing the functions of a goddess from her name when several etymologies are possible is therefore hazardous, but when there is no archaeological evidence (iconography, place of worship, ex-votos, etc) to shed light on the nature and functions of the goddess honoured in the dedication, etymology* is the only science which can bring significant information. In the case of an isolated dedication, i.e. unique and not discovered in its place of origin – because found in re-employment* in a wall for instance – it is important to analyze the various potential interpretations of the divine name. Dismissing a plausible etymology* could prove disastrous for the comprehension of the essence of a goddess.

The war-like aspect of a goddess can also be brought to light by her association with a Roman goddess of war, such as Victory or Minerva, in the inscription, or, in some exceptional cases, by iconographical evidence, such as for Brigantia. When possible, the archaeological and religious contexts should be investigated to determine the nature of the worship. It may be that the meaning of a divine name and the nature of the place of worship do not concur, such as in the case of Segeta, whose name siginifies ‘The Victorious One’ but who was honoured in healing water sanctuaries in Gallo-Roman times. The task is thus complex and the conclusions necessarily conjectural. This shows the complexity of the character of some goddesses, which certainly evolved and became endowed with different features and qualities throughout the centuries, especially at the time of the Roman invasion. Some seem to have been more particularly the embodiment and protectresses of the city or the tribe, while others have names reflecting the qualities needed in war, such as strength, fearlessness, rage and frenzy. Finally, some goddesses personify triumph and seem to have played the part of a leader leading its people to victory.


          Anextlomara (‘the Great Protectress’)

Protection is personified by the goddess Anextlomara, who is known from a single inscription, dating between the 1st and 3rd c. AD, discovered in Aventicum (Avenches, Switzerland), the capital of the tribe of the Helveti: Anextlomarae et Aug(usto) Public(us) Aunus, ‘To Anextlomara and to August, Publicus Aunus’ (fig. 18).1471 The dedication was found in a context of a habitation, which points to a domestic cult.1472 Anextlomara is associated with the imperial cult of the Emperor Augustus and the dedicator bears the duo nomina of Roman citizens. Her name is indeed composed of anextlo-, anexto– signifying ‘protection’ and maro-, ‘great’, ‘big’.1473 Anextlomara is therefore ‘the Great Protectress’ or ‘With Great Protection’. Her name is the feminine version of the epithet given to Apollo Anextlomarus, the ‘Great Protector’, venerated in South Shields (GB) and Le Mans (Sarthe).1474 The discovery of the dedication in a domestic context tends to prove that Anextlomara was a guardian ensuring the safety and prosperity of the people in their everyday lives, at home and at work. She might also have brought protection to the inhabitants in time of conflict or war, but no archaeological data is available to corroborate such a hypothesis.

Fig. 18: Dedication to Anextlorama (‘the Great Protectress’), discovered in Avenches (Switzerland). In the Roman Museum of Avenches, vitrine 23, n°1 (Catalogue Inscriptions, n°25). AE 1916, 2 ; F 94.

          The ‘Fortress’ Goddessses: Dunisia and Ratis

The goddess name Dunisia is known from a single inscription, discovered in 1879, when the church of Bussy-Albieu, situated near Montbrison (Loire), in the territory of the Segusavi, was demolished.1475 The dedication, dating from the 1st c. AD, is very damaged, incomplete and remains somewhat obscure. The inscription associates Dunisia with the goddess Segeta, who is mentioned in two other dedications from Feurs (Loire) and Sceaux-en-Gâtinais (Loiret): (f)il(ius) A. (ci)vitat(is) (Segusiavi?) (pr)aefecto tem(puli?) deae Segetae Fo(ri) allecto aquae (te)mpuli Dunisiae (pr)aefectorio ma(ximo) ejusdem tem(puli) pag(us)…blocnus.1476

Decipherment of this dedication remains problematic and complex. It mentions a temple erected to the goddess Segeta and another one to the goddess Dunisia. The dedicator, who is anonymous, is apparently endowed with municipal honour or priesthood and seems to have been admitted in a corporation attached to temple duties (praefectus).1477 The name Fori, which follows the name of the goddess, must refer to Feurs, a village situated 16 kilometres from Bussy-Albieu, where another inscription to Segeta engraved on a weight was found in 1525.

Dunisia’s name is related to the divine epithet Dunatis, given to Mars Bolvinnus in Bouhy (Nièvre, territory of the Senones)1478 and to Mars Segomo in Culoz (Ain, territory of the Ambarri).1479 Dunisia and Dunatis are both derived from the Celtic word dūnon meaning ‘hill’, ‘enclosed area’, ‘fortified town’, ‘citadel’, cognate with Old Irish dún, ‘fort, fortress’, Welsh dinas, ‘city’ and Breton din, ‘fortified town’.1480 This form, corresponding to Latin dunum, is attested by a quantity of place names in Europe, such as Lugdunum, ‘the Fort of Lugus’ (Lyons, Rhônes-Alpes), Eburodunum, ‘the Yew-Fort’ (Embrun, Hautes-Alpes), etc. These fortified cities, referred to as oppidum* in the singular form and oppida* in the plural form, developed from the beginning of the 2nd c. BC until the end of the 1st c. BC, the most important phase being the last quarter of the 2nd c. BC.1481 The phenomenon of hill-top fortified towns goes back to very ancient times. The first occurrences appeared in the 5th millennium (Ancient Neolithic) and they were particularly developed at the end of the Bronze Age (c. 900 BC) and in the first period of the Iron Age when insecurity increased, but those are smaller and somewhat different from the oppida*.1482 The oppidum* covered an area between 30 to 1,500 hectares, and was generally enclosed by ramparts and closed by ‘pincer’ doors named ‘Zangentore’.1483 They were usually situated on hills or mountains, which allowed them to dominate the surroundings and to protect themselves from the foes. Excavations carried out in the second half of the 19th c. revealed the presence of such fortified cities in a large part of Europe, Britain and Ireland (fig. 19). On account of their name, it is undeniable that Mars Dunatis and Dunisia are the embodiment of the dunum, i.e. ‘the agglomeration protected by an enclosure’ or ‘the fortified town’.1484 The fort being a place of refuge for the rural population in period of war and the centre of living, sometimes for the population of a whole territory, Dunatis (‘the Fort’) and Dunisia (‘the Fortress’) may be understood as the deities embodying and presiding over the stronghold, protecting their people and city.

Fig. 19: Map of the geographical distribution of the main oppida* of the Celtic world. Fichtl, 2000, pp. 18-19.

This function of protectress of the fortress may be echoed in another goddess name: Ratis. She is venerated in two British inscriptions from Birdoswald (Cumbria): Deae Rati votum in perpetuo, ‘To the goddess Ratis a vow in perpetuity’,1485 and from Chesters (Cheshire): Dea(e) Rat(i) v.s.l.,‘To the goddess Ratis (someone) willingly fulfilled his vow’ (fig. 20).1486 Olmsted mistakenly relates her name to the god name Ratomatos, which he derives from a Celtic root rato-, meaning ‘grace’, ‘fortune’.1487 This god name, which is listed neither in Jüfer’s Répertoire des Dieux Gaulois nor in Delamarre’s Noms de personnes celtiques dans l’épigraphie celtique, actually does not exist. Ellis Evans specifies that this divine name mentioned by Holder is a misreading of CIL XIII, 2583 found in Mâcon: […] Diorata Mato Antullus Mutilus (….).1488 As for the goddess name Ratis, it is not based on Celtic rato-, ‘fortune’, ‘grace’. It can be related either to Celtic rate, ratis, signifying ‘wall’, ‘rampart’ and by metonymy ‘fort’ – cf. Old Irish ráith, ‘lump of earth’, ‘fort’ – or to ratis, ‘fern’, but, according to Delamarre, this latter etymology* is far less probable.1489 The goddess Ratis must therefore signify ‘the Fortress’ and possess the same functions as Dunisia. Anwyl and Olmsted suggest that her name is similar to Ratae, the ancient name of Leicester (Leicestershire), and that she must have been the eponymous goddess of the city.1490 This theory is, however, difficult to believe insomuch as the two inscriptions were not discovered in the area.

Fig. 20: Altars from Birdoswald and Chesters (GB) dedicated to the goddess Ratis. Carlisle Museum and Chesters Museum. RIB 1903, 1454.

          Protection of the City: Bibracte

While Dunisia and Ratis are the personifications and protectresses of Celtic fortified cities in general, some other goddesses are embodiments and guardians of particular oppida* and cities. Such is the case of the goddess Bibracte, the eponymous goddess of the chief city of the Aedui, mentioned by Caesar in De Bello Gallico and by Strabo in his Geography.1491 In the middle of the 19th c., the emplacement of this important Gaulish oppidum* was a controversial issue and brought into vehement conflict the scholars of the time. C. Rossigneux maintained that Bibracte was Augustodunum (Autun), while Jacques-Gabriel Bulliot claimed it was located on Mont-Bevray (Saône-et-Loire) (fig. 21).1492 The excavations carried out by Bulliot and Joseph Déchelette on this site from 1867 to 1907, resumed between 1984 and 1995, revealed the traces of an ancient occupation and definitely settled the question over the location of Bibracte.1493 These archaeological discoveries showed that settlement on Mont-Beuvray went back to the Neolithic Period. It also evidenced the presence of the Aedui from the end of the 2nd c. BC to the end of the 1st c. BC, when, becoming allied with the Romans, they left their ancient hill fort to settle twenty kilometres away in the new city of Augustodunum (Autun).1494 The oppidum* of Bibracte, which gave its name to Mont-Beuvray, covered an area of 200 hectares and was fortified by a double rampart enclosing a complex inside organisation, with aristocratic residences, a gigantic astronomically oriented basin, a market, arts and crafts districts and sanctuaries located in the highest part of the plateau.1495

Fig. 21: Picture of Mont-Beuvray (Saône-et-Loire), where the city of the Aedui, Bibracte, was excavated in the 19th c. (Source: J. Delfour, 2000).

Three late inscriptions, probably dating from the 4th c. AD, discovered in Autun (Saône-et-Loire), are dedicated to the goddess Bibracte. The first inscription, discovered in 1679 in an ancient well, is engraved on a circular medallion in silver-plated brass, the authenticity of which was challenged by some specialists, who considered it to be the work of a forger.1496 Those doubts, arising due to the argument over the emplacement of the Aedui hill fort, have apparently been settled. The inscription reads: Deae Bibracti P. Capril(ius) Pacatus IIIIIIvir Augustal(is) v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito), ‘To the Goddess Bibracte, Publius Caprilius Pacatus, augustal sevir, paid his vow willingly and deservedly’ (fig. 22).1497 The dedicator bears the tria nomina of Roman citizens and is an augustal sevir, i.e. a freed slave designated for the year to supervise the Imperial cult of the city. Two other fragments of inscriptions mentioning the goddess were discovered in Autun but are now lost.1498 The first one read Bibracti (as)signatum, ‘attributed to Bibracte’, while the other one was engraved on the socle of a statue, the two feet of which only remained: Deae Bibracti, ‘To the Goddess Bibracte’.

Fig. 22: Facsimile of the inscription to the goddess Bibracte engraved on a medallion in silver brass, discovered in a well in Autun (Nièvre). Bulliot, 1870-1872, p. 306 ; Romero, 2006, p. 20.

The etymology* of Bribracte remains controversial today. On the one hand, most scholars admit that Bibracte is to be related to Celtic bebros, bebrus signifying ‘beaver’ – cf. Latin beber.1499 It is worth noting that some Celtic peoples bear that name, such as the tribe of the Bibroci, situated in the south of Britain (Berkshire, west of modern London), and the Pyrenean tribe of the Bebruces, who had for King Bebrux ‘Beaver’. The Mont-Beuvray or Bibracte can be thus glossed as ‘the Beaver-Mount’, which may indicate that the hill was inhabited by beavers in ancient times, but this remains to be proved. On the other hand, other specialists, such as Olmsted or Lacroix, side with Vendryes, who analyzes Bibracte as bibracto-, a reduplicated form of the past participle bract-, similar to Greek phráktos, phrássō, ‘fortified’ or ‘to fence, to wall something in’, and suggests that Bibracte might mean ‘The Very Fortified (Mount)’.1500 This etymology* is enticing, for Bibracte is actually a fortified mount, the ramparts of which may be of very ancient date, predating the Aedui.1501 Nevertheless, it remains dubious for most specialists of the Gaulish language.

Finally, some have tried to relate her name to the Latin root biber signifying ‘drink’, to justify her divine attachment to the numerous springs and rivers of Mont-Bevray. From this, Vendryes infers that Bibracte was originally a personification of the springs, which are numerous on the site of the oppidum*, and Bulliot adds that she must have had the functions of a healer like Sequana.1502 Yet, as Christian Goudineau rightly points out, Bibracte is certainly more a deification of the mount than the springs, for it is the mount which stands out in the landscape of the Morvan and must have originally been worshipped.1503 The cult may nonetheless have later extended to the springs of Mont-Beuvray. Excavations carried out at the Fontaine Saint-Pierre, dated 1st c. BC, revealed much archaeological material, attesting to a healing cult. An ear in bronze echoes the anatomic ex-votos* unearthed at the Sources of the Seine, but this does not prove that Bibracte was specifically viewed as a healing goddess.1504 At the summit of Mont-Beuvray, not very far away from this spring, was unearthed what Goudineau defines as “a proto-historic religious enclosure” surrounded by a ditch, where two vases dating from the end of the 1st c. BC were found. 1505 According to him, this enclosure could be interpreted as a place of devotion for the goddess Bibracte, but this theory remains speculative.

Bibracte must originally have been the deification of the sacred mount and must have represented its highness and force. When the powerful sept* of the Aedui chose to settle and build their fortress on the plateau of Mont-Beuvray, her name was given to the fortified city and she became its representative and patroness, bringing well-being and protection to her people.

          Protection of the Tribe: Brigantia

It has been established that the goddess Brigantia is etymologically cognate with Irish Brigit, Gaulish Brigindona and the Celtiberian Matres Brigiacae. These all have names referring to high places or designating their divine eminence, prestige and power. Their names mean ‘the High One’ or ‘the Exalted One’. Brigantia, who is venerated in seven inscriptions from South West Yorkshire and the region of Hadrian’s Wall, is the tribal-goddess of the Brigantes, a powerful Celtic sept* inhabiting the region where the inscriptions were discovered. Being their tutelary goddess, she must have represented them and protected them; a role evidenced by a figuration from the Roman Fort at Birrens (Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland) portraying her with shield and spear and by her equation with Roman goddesses of war and civil protection: Victory in Yorkshire and Caelestis in Northumbria.

Martial attributes: Strength, Courage and War Fury

Other goddesses may pertain to combat and war, for their names imply feelings of rage and fury and denote war-like qualities, such as force, bravery and valour.

          Belisama (‘the Most Powerful’?)

Belisama is known from two inscriptions of completely different origin, which indicates that she is not a topical* goddess presiding over a specific area or sept*. The first dedication is engraved on an altar in white marble with blue-grey veins, discovered in re-employment* in the bridge of Saint-Lizier (Ariège), which was the main oppidum* of the Consoranni tribe. The inscription associates her with the Roman goddess Minerva: Minervae Belisamae sacrum Q(uintus) Valeriu[s] Montan[us e]x v(oto) [s(uscepto)], ‘Sacred to Minerva Belisama, Quintus Valerius Montanus (offered this monument) in accomplishment of his vow’ (fig. 32).1540 Contrary to what Raymond Lizop maintains, there is no archaeological evidence testifying to a sanctuary to Belisama in the upper part of the town.1541

Belisama is not a mere epithet given to Minerva, since she is venerated on her own in another dedication, discovered in 1840 in Vaison-la-Romaine (Vaucluse), the chief city of the Vocontii tribe.1542 The inscription is of great interest, for it dates from around the 2nd or 1st c. BC and is in the Gaulish language and Greek lettering: σεγομαρος / ουιλλονεος / τοουτιους / ναμαυσατις / ειωρου βηλη- / σαμι σοσιν / νεμητον, ‘Segomaros son of Villū, citizen of Nîmes, offered this sacred enclosure to Belesama’ (fig. 33).1543 The name of the dedicator, Segomaros (‘Great Strength’ or ‘Great by his Victories’), and the name of his father, Villoneos, the meaning of which is unknown, are Celtic.1544 Segomaros offers the goddess a nemeton, that is a ‘sacred enclosure’, ‘sacred grove’ or ‘sanctuary’.1545 The nemeton was a sacred place of cult and veneration reserved to a deity, where human beings, apart from the initiates, were not allowed. Generally of quadrangular form, dotted with trees and a hollow altar in its centre, its limits were marked out on the ground by a ditch and sometimes enclosed by a fence.1546 Segomaros, a peregrine* bearing a typical Celtic name, coming from the city of Nîmes, had thus a sanctuary erected in honour of a Celtic goddess in the 2nd or 1st c. BC, which shows the importance of Belisama’s worship and the attachment of the indigenous people to their beliefs and cults.

Fig. 32: Left: Votive altar dedicated to Minerva Belisama, discovered in re-employment* in the bridge of Saint-Lizier (Ariège). CAG, 09, L’Ariège,1997, p. 155, fig. 134. Right: Altar dedicated to Belisamarus found in Châlon-sur-Saône (Saône-et-Loire). In the Musée de Chalon-sur-Saône. RE, vol.1, 1913, p. 95.

Fig. 33: Gallo-Greek inscription from Vaison-la-Romaine (Vaucluse) mentioning a nemeton offered to the goddess Belisama by Segomaros. Musée Lapidaire d’Avignon. Lambert, 1995, p. 84.

Belisama undoubtedly bears a Celtic name, the significance of which remains much debated. On the one hand, it can be related to an IE theme *bhel-, which is usually translated ‘white’ or ‘brilliant’ but actually denotes ‘force’.1547 Delamarre explains that the fanciful and inaccurate interpretation of *bhel– as ‘brilliant’ comes from the fact that the Gaulish god Belenus/Belinus, who is known from fifty-one dedications coming from southern and central Gaul and Aquileia (North Italy), is equated with the Roman solar god Apollo in nine of the inscriptions.1548 In fact, his association with Apollo is certainly not due to a solar imagery but to common healing functions. It is indeed clear that Belenus is a curative god, for he is attached to various water sanctuaries, such as the sacred medicinal springs at Sainte-Sabine (Côte d’Or).1549 Belenus / Belinus is to be understood as ‘the Master of Power’ or ‘the Powerful One’ rather than ‘the Bright One’. Belisama being its superlative form, her name thus means ‘the Very or Most Powerful One’ and not ‘the Most Brilliant’ as many scholars maintain.1550

On the other hand, Lambert specifies that her name may be derived from the verbal theme *gwel– signifying ‘to pierce’, ‘to kill’.1551 It appears thus that the two suggested etymologies refer to the notion of power, strength and killing. Belisama might thus be envisaged as a goddess related to war and combat. This idea is highly likely, since Belisama is associated with Minerva in the dedication from Saint-Lizier, and, as is well-known, Minerva has pronounced war-like functions among others.1552 As the two inscriptions were discovered at the location of the ancient chief fortified cities of the Consorani and the Vocontii, her powers may have been invoked to protect the place and the inhabitants in time of trouble.

The irrelevant etymology* of Belisama as ‘Most Brilliant’ has given rise to inappropriate theories concerning her functions. Some scholars suggest that Belisama could symbolize lightning or the fire of the forge of Vulcan and be connected to Irish Brigit, who is the patroness of smithcraft and is often assigned fire and shining aspects – these attributes actually characterize more the Saint than the goddess.1553 As for Lacroix, he proposes to compare Belisima’s name to the Greek proper name Hellène meaning ‘Mistress of Light’. According to him, Belisama could personify the rising sun and be a goddess of the dawn or spring.1554

De Bernardo Stempel and Delamarre notice that Belisama may be etymologically related to the goddess Belestis (*Bel-isto = Bel-isamo?),1555 honoured in St. Leonhard (Austria): Belesti Aug(ustae) T(itus) Tapponius Macrinus et Iulia Sex(ti) l(iberta) Cara cum suis vslm, and Unterloibl: Belesti Aug(ustae) sac(rum) Latinus Tapponi Macrini ser(vus) vslm.1556 De Bernardo Stempel may however be mistaken when she translates Belestis as ‘the Most Brilliant’ and assumes that she is a Moon goddess, as Sirona is a Star goddess.

Other specialists regard Belisama as a water-goddess because Ptolemy gave her name to the River Ribble in north-west England (Lancashire).1557 Another river, Le Blima, a small tributary of the Dadou in Tarn (France), might be derived from her name too.1558 As there is no archaeological material evidencing a water cult attached to Belisama – the inscriptions were not found in or near water sanctuaries, ex-votos proving a healing cult were not discovered either – those names of rivers do not produce proof of such a function. The fact that the god Belenus is often associated with healing water sanctuaries does not support that idea either, since Belisama’s name is not the feminine version of Belenos but of Belisamarus. This god is mentioned in an inscription engraved on a prismatic altar discovered in Châlon-sur-Saône (Saône-et-Loire), in the territory of the Aedui. The dedication is the following: De[o] Beli[s]amaro L(ucius) Lanius Sedatianus sive Cod[on]ius, ‘To the god Belisamarus, Lucius Lanius Sedatianus or Codonius’ (fig. 32).1559 The dedicator bears the tria nomina of Roman citizens. His nomen*, cognomen* and ‘nickname’ (Codonius) are Latin.1560

          Exomna (‘the One Without Fear’)

Very little is known about the goddess Exomna, who is honoured in a single dedication from Alem, situated north of s-Hertogenbosch (the Netherlands), in the territory of the Germanic Batavi: Deae Exomnae Annius Vitalis v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito), ‘To the goddess Exomna, Annius Vitalis paid his vow willingly and deservedly’.1561 The praenomen* of the dedicator Annius may be Celtic,1562 while his nomen*, Vitalis, is Latin. Even though the inscription was discovered in the land of a Germanic sept*, her name is undoubtedly Celtic. This can be explained by the proximity between Celtic and Germanic peoples in this area. Exomna is composed of the privative particle ex(s) ‘without’ and of the word obnos > omnos, ‘fear’, cf. the Old Irish adjective essamain, ‘without fear’; hence Exomna, ‘the One who is Without Fear’ or ‘the Bold One’.1563 According to Spickermann, the epithet Exsobinius (*Exs-obn-io-), given to Mars Lenus in Virton (Belgium), is the masculine version of Exomna, with a –bn- variant: Leno Marti Exsobin(i) Novic(ius) et Expectatus vslm, ‘To Mars Lenus Exsobinius Novicius and Expectatus paid their vow willingly and deservedly’.1564

Her name denoting fearlessness, it can be suggested that Exomana was a war-like goddess related to battle and combat, who embodied the bravery of warriors and made them take fresh heart when they became discouraged. She might have represented the valour of Celtic warriors, who braved death and gave their life for the safety of their own people. War was a question of honour, dignity and pride: the Celtic warrior fought to the death rather than be humiliated and disgraced.1565

          Vercana (‘Fury, Rage’)

The goddess Vercana is mentioned in an inscription discovered in Ernestviller (Moselle), in the territory of the Mediomatrici: In h(onorem) d(omus) d(ivinae) deae Vercanu isd(em) co(n)s(ulibus) […] pos(uit) […], ‘In honour of the Divine House and of the Goddess Vercana (…?)’.1566 The votive formula In h.d.d. associated with the term dea allows us to date this dedication to the beginning of the 3rd c. AD.1567 In Bad Bertrich, near Trier (Germany), in the territory of the Treveri, she is honoured along with the goddess Meduna: De(a)e Vercan(a)e et Medun(a)e L(ucius) T() Acc(e)ptus vslm, ‘To the Goddess Vercana and to Meduna, Lucius T. Acceptus paid his vow willingly and deservedly’.1568 The dedicator bears the tria nomina of Roman citizens and Latin names.1569 In this dedication, the goddesses Vercana and Meduna are linked to water and healing, for excavations carried out at Bad Bertrich revealed Gallo-Roman spa installations near to the medicinal springs.1570

Vercana remains a somewhat obscure goddess. The significance of her name could shed light on her possible functions. Olmsted suggests that her name *verc-ano- could come from an Indo-European root *uer-k- meaning ‘to wind’, ‘to twist’, giving Irish ferc, ‘knob’, ‘handle’ and Welsh cywarch, ‘rope’. In view of that etymology*, Vercana can be understood as a water deity.1571 As far as Lambert, Delamarre and Holder are concerned, Vercana is to be derived from Indo-European *uerg– signifying ‘to do, to act, to hasten, to press’, or ‘to be puffed with rage, pride or anger’, which gave Old Breton guerg, ‘efficient’, Old Welsh gwery, ‘active’, Old Irish ferc, ferg, ‘fury’, ‘anger’, ‘rage’ and Modern Irish fearg – it can be paralleled to Latin urgeo, ‘to press (the enemy), ‘to hasten’, ‘to torment’, ‘to push forward’. Vercana would therefore signify ‘Fury’, ‘Rage’ or ‘Wrath’.1572 This etymology*, which is the most likely, would indicate that Vercana is a goddess related to war and combat. Her name evokes the state in which the Celtic combatants were said to be when they were fighting the foe, being overcome with anger and wanting to spill blood. It expresses the furor or ‘war frenzy’ which particularized Celtic warriors on the battlefield and, according to contemporary accounts, scared enemies to death.1573

          Noreia (‘the Courageous One’) and Veica (‘Combat’) (Austria)

It is worth mentioning the goddess Noreia, who is known from several dedications discovered in today’s Austria and Slovenia, even though the Celticity of her name is dubious and her cult is confined to Romanized Noricans, working for the province, imperial officials and soldiers.1574 Her worship was actually part of conventional Roman worship. In the centre of Celeia was discovered an inscription associating Noreia with Celeia (‘the All Powerful’), the eponymous goddess of the city, and Iupiter Optimus Maximus, the head of the Roman pantheon and of the Capitoline Triad, composed of Juno and Minerva, generally honoured by the army: IOM et Cel(eiae) et Noreiae sanct(a)e, ‘To IOM and Celeia and sacred Noeia’.1575 On another monument from Celeia, she is mentioned together with Mars, Hercules and Victoria.1576 From the territory of Celeia, at Atrans and Črešnjevec, come two other inscriptions mentioning her.1577 She was also venerated at the sanctuary of Hohenstein (Austria), situated on the River Glen, in six dedications, one of which equates her with the Egyptian goddess Isis.1578 Another inscription discovered at Ulrichsberg (Austria), probably brought from Hohenstein, mentions a sanctuary erected in honour of Noreia Isis (fig. 34).1579 Finally, she is honoured twice in Weihmörting, near Boiodurum.1580

Fig. 34: Inscription to Noreia-Isis over the portal of the church-hulk on top of Ulrichsberg (Mount Ulrich, Austria). (Source: Johann Jaritz, 23 April 2004).

It is difficult to determine whether her name is Celtic or pre-Celtic.1581 De Bernardo Stempel proposes to break down her name as *nor-icī and to translates it ‘the powerful, vigorous, strong or courageous one’.1582 If this etymology* is correct, the goddess Noreica might have originally been a protective goddess, possessing martial aspects and embodying courage at war and strength in battle. This could explain how she later personified and protected the province and its institutions.1583

Interestingly, a lost dedication of unidentified origin mentions a goddess Veica Noriceia: Veicae Noriceiae A. Poblicius D. l. A[—] P. Postumius P. l. Pau(…) coir(averunt).1584 The inscription indicates that the two dedicators had a sanctuary erected in honour of the goddess (coiraverunt). The divine name Veica is most certainly Celtic1585 and can be broken down as *weik-ā, that is ‘the one of the battle’,1586 from an IE root *weik meaning ‘to vanquish’ and denoting “the ideas of both battle and wonder-working” according to M. York – it can be related to Irish fíoch, ‘ferocity’.1587. In view of this etymology*, it can be suggested that Veica is a war-goddess embodying and presiding over the fighting.

Goddesses of Victory

          Segeta (‘Victory’)

The goddess Segeta is mentioned in three inscriptions, in Bussy-Albieu (Loire) with Dunisia (see above), in Feurs (Loire) and in Sceaux-en-Gâtinais (Loiret), where healing water sanctuaries were excavated. Segeta’s name is based on a Celtic root sego– meaning ‘victory’, ‘strength’, derived from an Indo-European root *seĝh– meaning ‘to subject’, ‘to conquer’, ‘to vanquish’.1588 This root is found in many proper names, such as Segolatius(‘Hero-of-the-Victory’) and Segorix (‘Victorious King’), and many placenames, for instance Sego-briga (‘Fortress-of-Victory’), the present-day city Segorbe, situated to the north of Valencia in Spain. From the ending of her name in –ta, found for instance in Rosmerta, it can be deduced that Segeta is a name of action.1589 Her name is thus related to war and can be glossed as ‘the Victorious One’, that is the one who ensures victory over the foes. As far as Olmsted is concerned, her name should be linked to the Irish ségda, ‘lucky, fortunate, propitious’, on account of her close association with curative waters.1590 According to him, Segeta would be ‘the Fortune Bringer’ or ‘the Propitious One’, but this etymology* is highly unlikely.

Segeta is etymologically related to the goddess Segomanna, venerated on the plateau of ‘Bois de Labaume’ (Gard), and possibly to the Matronis Seccanehis (*sekkon-ikā-), honoured in Euskirchen (Germania Inferior), whose name might be based on the root secco-, a derivation from Celtic sego: Matronis Seccannehis Secundinus Certus [v]slm, ‘To the Matronae Seccannehae Secundinus Certus paid his vow willingly and deservedly’.1591 The dedicator bears the duo nomina of Roman citizens.

Segeta may originally have been the tutelary goddess of the Segusiavi (‘The Victorious Ones’), who had Forum Segusiavorum (Feurs) for their chief city in Gallo-Roman times.1592 A dedication, engraved on a bronze weight of ten Roman pounds (=3.81 kilograms), probably dating from the 2nd or 3rd c. AD, was indeed discovered in 1525 in Feurs. The weight must have been left as a standard in honour of the goddess. The inscription is the following: Deae Seg(etae) F(ori) ou F(orensium?) p(ondo) X, ‘To the goddess Segeta of Feurs (this weight) weights ten (Roman livres)’ (X=decem=ten).1593 Archaeological excavations carried out in 1979-1980 in Feurs revealed the remains of a Gaulish village, dating from the 3rd or 2nd c. BC, which developed into a city, where thermal baths and a water sanctuary may have been erected in Gallo-Roman times.1594

Another inscription was unearthed in the territory of the Senones, in Sceaux-en-Gâtinais (Loiret), called Aquae Segetae in Gallo-Roman times according to the 4th-century AD Table de Peutinger.1595 The inscription is engraved on a fragmented disc in pinkish marble (diam. 64 cm), on the reverse of which two long vases, fish and curves or waves redolent of the undulations of water are drawn. Those drawings are either linked to Segeta and reminiscent of her watery aspect or they are of later date and were added when the disc was re-used*. The dedication reads: Aug(ustae) deae Segetae T(itus) Marius Priscinus v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito) efficiendum curau(i)t Maria Sacra fil(ia), ‘To the August goddess Segeta, Titus Marius Priscinus paid his vow willingly and deservedly, Maria Sacra, his daughter, took care to realise it’ (fig. 35).1596 The dedicator bears the tria nomina of Roman citizens, and his daughter has Latin names.

Fig. 35: Dedication to Segeta engraved on the obverse of a disk, discovered in Sceaux-en-Gâtinais (Loiret). On the reverse: drawings of waves, fish or curves (?) and two long vases. Musée du Gâtinais, Montargis. Gallia, 32, 1974, p. 305, fig. 2 and 3.

Aquae Segetae (‘The Waters of Segeta’) was apparently an important religious water sanctuary, located in the locality of Le Préau, La Rivière, situated to the north of the Chemin de César, 2.3 kilometres from Sceaux-en-Gâtinais.1597 The inscription was discovered in 1973, together with statues of mother goddesses and Venus Anadyomenes*, at the site of a monumental set of Gallo-Roman buildings, dated 1st c. AD, composed of a fanum* and several water sanctuaries, which included a number of rooms, baths, piping, yards and esplanades, organised around a healing spring. Moreover, anatomic ex-votos* in bronze and silver, representing feet, legs, masculine genital organs and prophylactic eyes were discovered on the site. This undoubtedly indicates that pilgrims came to the sanctuary to pray to the healing water-goddess and to have their pains soothed.1598 Excavations revealed that a vast paved yard surrounded by a portico protecting a series of small rooms (cellae*) was erected around basin n°XI, where the inscription was found. Those rooms were interpreted as small shops or incubation* rooms, where the sick pilgrims could have slept and waited overnight for divine intervention.1599 The name of the water sanctuary and the dedication enable us to assert that Segeta was the healing goddess presiding over the waters of this site.

It is interesting to note that Segeta is similar to a minor Roman deity (indigitamenta), called Segesta, who presided over harvest time and watched over grown corn. As Pliny relates in his Natural History, Segesta had her image in the sanctuary of Consus, at the bottom of the Palatine Hill, in the valley of the Circus.1600 He explains that her name is linked to the word segetes, ‘crops of standing corn’:

‘numa instituit deos fruge colere et mola salsa supplicare atque, ut auctor est hemina, far torrere, quoniam tostum cibo salubrius esset, id uno modo consectus, statuendo non esse purum ad rem divinam nisi tostum. is et fornacalia instituit farris torrendi ferias et aeque religiosas terminis agrorum. hos enim deos tum maxime noverant, seiamque a serendo, segestam a segetibus appellabant, quarum simulacra in circo videmus.

Numa first established the custom of offering corn to the gods, and of propitiating them with the salted cake; he was the first, too, as we learn from Hemina, to parch spelt, from the fact that, when in this state, it is more wholesome as an aliment. This method, however, he could only establish one way: by making an enactment, to the effect that spelt is not in a pure state for offering, except when parched. He it was, too, who instituted the Fornacalia, festivals appropriated for the parching of corn, and others, observed with equal solemnity, for the erection and preservation of the “termini”, or boundaries of the fields: for these termini, in those days, they particularly regarded as gods; while to other divinities they gave the names of Seia, from ‘sero’, ‘to sow’, and of Segesta, from tile ‘segetes’, or ‘crops of standing corn’, the statues of which goddesses we still see erected in the Circus.1601

Similarly, Saint Augustine, the bishop of Hippo Regius (present-day Annaba, Algeria), who was a famous Christian theologian and historian at the end of the 4th c. and beginning of the 5th c. AD when the Roman Empire was collapsing, explains in his De Civitate Dei or City of God (413-426 AD) – which investigates the ancient pagan religions of Rome – that the crops were presided over by different goddesses. Segetia was the one who attended to wheat and corn when they were already grown. Saint Augustine adds that her name is related to Latin seges, ‘crop’:

‘Nec agrorum munus uni alicui deo committendum arbitrati sunt, sed rura deae Rusinae, iuga montium deo Iugatino; collibus deae Collatinam, uallibus Valloniam praefecerunt. Nec saltem potuerunt unam Segetiam talem inuenire, cui semel segetes commendarent, sed sata frumenta, quamdiu sub terra essent, praepositam uoluerunt habere deam Seiam; cum uero iam essent super terram et segetem facerent, deam Segetiam; frumentis uero collectis atque reconditis, ut tuto seruarentur, deam Tutilinam praeposuerunt. cui non sufficere uideretur illa Segetia, quamdiu seges ab initiis herbidis usque ad aristas aridas perueniret?

They decided that responsibility for the land should not be entrusted to any one god; they put the goddess Rusina in charge of the rural countryisde; they consigned the mountain ranges (iuga) to the care of the god Jugatinus ; the hills (colles) to the goddess Collatina , the valleys to Vallonia. They could not even find the goddess Segetia adequate on her own, to the responsibility for the crops (segetes) from start to finish. Instead, they decided that the corn when sown (sata) should have the goddess Seia to watch over it as long as the seeds were under ground ; as soon as the shoots came above the ground and began to form the grain (seges), they were under the charge of the goddess Segetia ; but when the corn had been reaped and stored the goddess Tutilina was set over them to keep them safe (tuto). Would not anyone think that Segetia should have been competent to supervise the whole process from the first green shoots to the dry ears of corn?1602

Interestingly, in the 3rd c. AD, coins stamped with the effigy of Salonina, the wife of the Emperor P. Lucinius Egnatius Gallienus (253-268 AD), had the following legend on the reverse: Deae Segetiae (fig. 36). The goddess wears a very short dress and is represented in a tetra-style temple, i.e. a temple with four front columns. She raises her arms towards the sky and a sort of halo or crown surrounds her head. It is possible that the Emperor’s wife, in periods of calamity, had recourse to the harvest goddess Segetia to implore her benevolence and fertility.

Fig. 36: Coins stamped at the effigy of Salonina, with on the reverse the mention Deae Segetiae with representation of the goddess. Lajoye, 2006, p. 77.

From a linguistic point of view, it would appear that Segeta (‘the Victorious’) was a martial protective goddess, invoked in time of war to ensure victory to her people. The archaeological discoveries in Feurs and Sceaux-en-Gâtinais indicate that Segeta was a healing goddess presiding over curative waters, worshipped by sick pilgrims to be relieved from their pains and sufferance. Finally, comparative mythology allows us to assume that Segeta was similar to Roman Segesta/Segetia and was originally a land-goddess, watching over crops and bringing prosperity to her people. From this, it follows that Segeta is a multi-sided goddess who had various land, healing, protective and war functions, which varied according to the time, place and needs of the population.

          Segomanna (‘Victory Giver’)

The goddess Segeta is etymologically linked to another goddess named Segomanna, mentioned in a single inscription, discovered in 1905, in the middle of the ruins of huts, when excavations were carried out at the site of the oppidum* of Labaume, situated on the plateau du ‘Bois de Labaume’, which overhangs the small gorges of the River Seynes and the plain of Serviers-et-Labaume (Gard), in the territory of the Volcae Arecomici.1603 The archaeological artefacts collected on the oppidum* attest to an important occupation in the second period of the Iron Age. The site was then abandoned before the Roman conquest.1604 The inscription is very well-preserved and the letters are nicely engraved: Tertius Tincorigis f(ilius) Segomannae v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito), ‘To Segomanna, Tertius son of Tincorix paid his vow willingly and deservedly’ (fig. 37). The dedicator and his father bear unique names: they are peregrines. While the name of the dedicator Tertius is Latin, the name of his father Tincorix, composed of tinco-(?) and rix, ‘king’, is definitely Gaulish.1605 The fact that Tincorix chose a Latin name for his son indicates that he was a Romanized peregrine*.1606

The divine name Segomanna is composed of Celtic sego-, ‘victory’, ‘force’ and manos, probably meaning ‘good’ or ‘favourable’.1607 Segomana is therefore to be understood as ‘The One who favours Victory’. In view of this etymology*, she is clearly a martial goddess, who must have been appealed to in time of war to protect the warriors, repel the foes and ensure victory. In other words, Segomanna is a victory leader or a victory giver. As the dedication was discovered at the location of the oppidum* of Labaume, she must have fulfilled a protective role, watching over the city and guarding its inhabitants.

Fig. 37: Inscription dedicated to the goddess Segomanna found on the site of the oppidum* of Labaume (Gard). Musée Archéologique de Nîmes. Darde, 2001-2002, p. 38.

Some scholars suggest Segomanna might have been a water-goddess, possibly in relation with the River Seynes, which flows in the plain of Serviers, because Gallo-Roman vestiges were unearthed at its spring.1608 This shows that the spring of Seynes was worshipped in Gallo-Roman times, but it does not evidence that Segomanna was a river- or spring-goddess, since the inscription was not discovered there. It is nonetheless interesting to note that another inscription, discovered in 1938 on the bank of the River Le Gardon, near the village of Dions, situated a few kilometres to the south of Sévriers-et-Labaume, may mention the goddess Segomanna – the divine name was reconstructed Segom[anna] in view of the other dedication. The inscription is engraved on the shaft of a column and reads: L(ucius) Virius Rustic(us) Viroci f(ilius) Segom(anae) d(e) s(uo) da[t] colum(nam) or colum(nas), ‘Lucius Virius Rusticus, son of Virocus, offered this column (or these columns) to Segomanna at his own expenses’.1609 The dedicator is a Roman citizen bearing the tria nomina, while his father Virocus clearly has a Celtic name.1610 This shows the wish of the father to become Romanized. The column was found amongst mosaics, parts of walls, elements of columns, fragments of altars and pedestals of statues in the ruins of a Gallo-Roman monument. This building was interpreted as a water sanctuary, situated on the bank of the river, over which the goddess Segomanna might have presided, but this remains conjectural.1611

Segomanna can be equated with the god Segomo (‘Victor’ or ‘Victory Giver’), who is invoked in a dedication from Nuits-Saints-Georges (Côte d’Or) and is attributed the indigenous epithet of Cuntinus, possibly based on Gaulish cuno-, ‘dog’ or ‘wolf’, in an inscription from Cimiez (Alpes-Maritimes).1612 Segomo is associated with Mars in four dedications from Arinthod (Jura), Les Bolards (Ain), Lyons (Rhône) and Culoz (Ain), where he is given the epithet Dunatis (‘Fortress’): N(umini) Aug(usti) deo Marti Segomoni Dunati Cassia Saturnina ex voto vslm, ‘To the Divine Augustus and to the god Mars Segomo Dunatis, Cassia Saturnina offered (this) and paid her vow willingly and deservedly’.1613 Given the significance of his name and his association with Mars,the Roman god of War, Segomo is undeniably a god who presided over combat and was revered to assure victory. Lambert explains that Mars Segomo Dunati is to be understood as ‘Mars the Victor who lives in the dunon, that is the ‘fortress’ or ‘fortified mount’, Segomo being a descriptive byname* and Dunatis a localizing epithet.1614 Interestingly, this inscription seems to echo the dedication Segeta and Dunisia from Bussy-Albieu. Being based on the root seg-, ‘victory’, Segeta is etymologically related to Segomo, while Dunisia and Dunatis are derived from dunon, ‘fortified town’. From this, it can be inferred that war deities, such as Segeta, Segomanna or Segomo, who were invoked in time of conflict to gain the necessary strength and vigour to overwhelm, subject and vanquish the enemy, were closely related to the fortified cities of the Celts personified as gods and goddesses ensuring the protection of the inhabitants.

          Boudina/Boudiga (‘Victory’)

The notion of triumph is also embodied by a goddess named Boudina, who is known from three inscriptions. The nameBoudina is based on the Celtic root boudi– meaning ‘victory, advantage, profit’.1615 Boudina (‘the Victorious One’) is thus the personification of victory and probably similar in functions to the Roman war-goddess Victory. It can also be related to the name of the British Queen Bouddica (‘Victorious’), who, as we have seen, led the Iceni against the Romans in 60 AD.

As detailed in Chapter 2, Boudina is associated with the goddess Alauna, ‘Nurturer’ (?) in two dedications from Pantenburg (Germany): [Bo]udi{i}n{u}ae [et] Alaunae C(aius) Sextilius Sollemnis, ‘To Boudina and Alauna, Caius Sextilius Sollemnis’ and Deo Voroi[o] Boudina E et Alau{i}nae C(aius) Sextilius Sollemnis, ‘To the god Voroio, Boudina (E?) and Alauina, Caius Sextilius Sollemnis’.1616 The two dedicators bear the tria nomina of Roman citizens.In Liesenich (Germany), Boudina is honoured together with the Celtic gods Vindoridius and Mars Smertrius: In h(onorem) d(omus) d(ivinae) numin[i] Marti Smertrio et [—] Uindoridio Boud[i]nae Cn(aeus) Domitius C[n(aei?) fil(ius).1617 The votive formula In h.d.d. allows us to date the inscription from the middle of the 2nd c. AD to the middle of the 3rd c.1618

Boudina is etymologically related to the goddess Boudiga (‘Victory’), honoured in an inscription discovered in 1921 in re-employment* in the wall of the city of Bordeaux (Gironde): Deae Tutel(a)e Boudig(ae) M. Aurelius Lunaris (se)vir Aug(ustalis) col(oniarum) Ebor(aci) et Lind(i) prov(inciae) Brit(anniae) Inf(erioris) aram vover(at) ab Eboraci avect(us) v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito) Perpetuo et Corne(liano consulibus).1619 The dedicator M. Aurelius Lunaris has Latin names and bears the tria nomina of Roman citizens. He was a merchant from Britanny and augustal sevir, that is a freed slave in charge of the Imperial cult of the city, in York and Lincoln. Boudiga is attributed the Roman divine title of Tutela, who is venerated on her own in three other inscriptions from Bordeaux.1620 As explained under Vesunna, who is the Tutela of the chief city of the Pertrucori in Dordogne, the Tutela was the personification and protectress of a city, who ensured prosperity and safety.1621 This inscription indicates that the Tutela of Bordeaux, that is the protective goddess of the city, was called Boudiga. This role is attested by her name denoting success and triumph.

It is worth noting that the epithet of the Matronae Boudunneae / Boudunnehae, venerated in two dedications from Cologne (Germania Inferior), is also derived from the Celtic root boudi-, ‘victory’. The ending in –ehae indicates that these deities are Germanized or Germanic mother goddesses. The dedications are the following: Matronis Boudunnehis Dossonia Paterna, ‘To the Matronae Boudunnehae Dossonia Paterna’ and Matron[is] Boudunn[eis] M(arcus) Nigrin[ius] Serenu[s] vsl[m], ‘To the Matronae Boudunneae Marcus Nigrinius Serenus paid his vow willingly and deservedly’.1622 In the first inscription, the dedicator is a woman, whose praenomen*, Dossonia, is Celtic.1623 The dedicator of the second inscription bears the tria nomina of Roman citizens.

          Camuloriga (‘Queen of the Champions’)

The goddess name Camuloriga is mentioned in an inscription discovered around 1844 in Soissons (Aisne), in the territory of the Suessiones: Deae Camlorig(a)e votum, ‘To the Goddess Camuloriga a vow (was made)’ (fig. 38).1624 On the reverse of the stele*, the relief* of a standing character wearing a short tunic and holding a purse in his/her right hand appears. Since the drawing is rough and mutilated, it is difficult to determine the identity of the personage: is it a man or a woman? Could it be the representation of the goddess Camuloriga? Her name might again be distinguished on an altar from Ponts-les-Bonfays (Vosges), in the territory of the Leuci – a bust of a woman is engraved on the right panel and the bust of a man is portrayed on the left panel (fig. 39). The inscription could be either read Camu[l]oric[i or Camu[l]oric[ae.1625 As Espérandieu points out, this inscription is certainly a funerary altar bearing the name of the deceased rather than a votive stele* representing the divine couple Camulorici / Camuloriga.1626

On account of the similarity in names, Camuloriga might be related to the god Camulus, who is venerated in ten inscriptions from Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Hungary and Italy, six of which equate him with Mars.1627

Camuloriga is composed of camulo, which means ‘champion’ or ‘servant’, and riga, ‘queen’.1628 Being a divine entity, Camuloriga is to be understood as ‘Queen of the Champions’ rather than ‘Queen of the Servants’. Her name is the feminine version of Camulorix (‘King of the Champions’), which is not attested as a divine name but occurs as a proper name in Ratcliffe-on-Soar (GB), Stackpole Elidur (GB) and Bourg-en-Bresse (Ain).1629 In view of the significance of her name, W. Fröhner identifies Camuloriga with the Roman goddess of war Bellona.1630 She may have been the one who presided over the hero-warriors in time of war, protecting, encouraging and leading them to victory. Besides, it can be noted that the Suessiones, who neighboured on the Remi, were one of the mightiest Belgian tribes of northern Gaul, and that their King, Diviciacos, is described as the most powerful chief of Gaul by Caesar in De Bello Gallico.1631 Therefore, it would not be surprising that this tribe venerated a divine war leader personifying their strength and success, commanding them and ensuring them triumph.

Fig. 38: Votive stele* dedicated to the goddess Camuloriga, discovered in Soissons (Aisne). On the reverse a rough representation of a standing character with short tunic and purse. CAG, 02, L’Aisne, 2003, p. 447, fig. 582.

Fig. 39: Mutilated altar from Pont-les-Bonfays (Vosges) dedicated to Camu[l]ori[ca] (?), with, on the right, the representation of the bust of a woman, and, on the left, the bust of a man. Musée d’Épinal (Vosges). RG 4811.

          [T]ricoria/Ricoria (‘Great Warrioress’ or ‘Liberating Queen’?)

The goddess Ricoria or Tricoria is known from a unique altar combining a figuration of the goddess with an inscription identifying her (fig. 40).1632 It was discovered in Béziers (Hérault), in the territory of the Volcae Arecomici, during excavations carried out on the ‘Plateau des Poètes’.1633 On the main panel, the name Ricoria is engraved above the rough representation of a draped goddess holding a patera* in her right hand and an undetermined object in her left hand. On the left side of the altar is inscribed the name of the dedicator C(aius) Pequ(ius) Catli(nus), who bears the tria nomina of Roman citizens. The votive formula v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito), which indicates that C. Pequius Caltus thanked the goddess for accomplishing a vow he had previously made, follows. The complete inscription is the following: [T]ricoriae/Ricoriae, C(aius) Pequ(ius) Catli(nus) v(otum) s(olutum) l(ibens) m(erito), ‘To [T]ricoria/Ricoriae, Caius Pequvius Catlinus paid his vow willingly and deservedly’. Finally, a patera* and a guttus* with handles are engraved on the right side of the altar. These two objects are common attributes of fertility characterizing land-mother goddesses.

The nature of this goddess is problematic, for scholars do not agree on the spelling and meaning of her name. Moreover, her figuration being that of an ordinary goddess of fertility, it is difficult to determine which specific functions she may have fulfilled. Some specialists propose to read her name as [T]ricoria, inducing that she was the tribal-goddess of the Tricorii (‘the Three Troops’ or ‘The Triple Armies’), a tribe neighbouring the Vocontii, in the south east of Gaul.1634 The altar was not discovered in their territory, but not very far away, and accordingly this theory remains plausible. The divine name Tricoria would thus be composed of the Celtic terms tri– meaning ‘three’ and corio– signifying ‘troop’ or ‘army’, cognate with Old Irish cuire, ‘troop, army’, Welsh cordd, ‘tribe, clan, troop’, Middle Breton cost-cor, ‘family, troop’, derived from IE *korios, *koros signifying ‘people in arms’.1635 This root, which undeniably denotes war, occurs in other names of septs*, such as the Coriosolitae (‘Army of the Solitae’ or ‘Complete Army’?) situated in the present-day Côte d’Armor, the Uocorii (‘the Two Troops’), the location of which is unknown, the Vertamocorii, inhabiting the present-day Vercors and the Petrocorii(‘the Four-Troops’), located between the River Dordogne and the River Vézère (Corrèze).1636 Interestingly, Elmer Antonsen explains that the proper names Corius, Coria, Coriso are equivalent to Runic* Hariso which signifies ‘female warrior’.1637 Tricoria could therefore be the goddess of the ‘Triple Army’ or ‘the Triple Female Warrior’. On account of her portrayal and the etymology* of her name, it can be inferred that Tricoria combines attributes of fertility and war. She may have simultaneously been the embodiment of the land, providing her people with fertility, and the patroness of the Tricorii and their territory.

And yet, the reconstitution of her name as Tricoria remains highly unlikely. When looking more closely at the altar, it can be noticed that there is no place for a supplementary letter.1638 Therefore, the goddess name is very certainly Ricoria.1639 Contrary to whatAllmer asserted at the end of the 19th c., Ricoria is not a Latin name, but clearly a Celtic name.1640 One possibility would be to analyse Ricoria as *Re-coria < Ro-coriā, with an intensive particle re/ro meaning ‘very’, ‘great’ and the root coria, ‘troop’, ‘army’ and possibly ‘female warrior’. Ricoria is thus the ‘Great Army’ and maybe the ‘Great Female Warrior’.1641 Alternatively, her name could be broken down as *Rīgo-riā, with rīgo, ‘king’, ‘queen’ and possibly ria, ‘free’.1642 Accordingly, Ricoria may be glossed as ‘Free Queen’, with the meaning of being a ‘liberator’.

In view of those two plausible etymologies, it can be induced that Ricoria possesses pronounced sovereign, protective and war aspects. Was she a warrioress or a divine queen fighting for the liberty and well-being of her people? Her very ordinary iconography, which denotes her powers of fertility and benevolence, does not shed any light on that question. As for Vaillat’s theory that she may have been a water-goddess associated with a local spring, there is no etymological or archaeological proof indicating such a possibility.1643

Fig. 40: Relief* with inscription identifying the goddess Ricoria found in Béziers (Hérault). Musée Lapidaire de Béziers. RG 539.

          Coriotana (‘Mistress of the Troops’?)

It is interesting to note that another goddess name comprises the same root corio-, ‘army’ or ‘troop’.Coriotana is mentioned in a dedication, probably dating from the 2nd c. AD, discovered in 1998 in a field at a place known as ‘Le Village’, in Optevoz (Isère), in the territory of the Allobroges.1644 According to André Pelletier, Optevoz may have been a secondary town of the city of Vienne.1645 The inscription is dotted and engraved on the upper part of a hanging in bronze. The object is missing: it may have been a representation of the goddess.1646 On face 1, it reads: D(e)ae Coriotana[e], ‘To the Goddess Coriotana’, and on face 2: M(arcus) I(ulius) Primulus d(edit) or d(edicavit), ‘Marcus Iulius Primulus offered (this)’ (fig. 41).1647 The dedicator bears the tria nomina of Roman citizens. Delamarre breaks down her name as Corio-tanna, but does not propose any etymology* for the second element of it.1648 As for Lambert, he suggests that this divine name might end in –ama, like Belisama, and mean ‘Mistress of the Troops’.

As Coriotana is known by this single inscription and as the place of discovery does not give any information on her cult, one can only rely on etymology* to comprehend her nature and functions. Being related to the army, she might have been a goddess of the battlefield and war, but this remains only a hypothesis.

Fig. 41: Pictures and facsimile of the inscription to the goddess Coriotana, engraved on a hanging in bronze. Carrara, 2000, p. 16, fig. 1 and 2.


From the foregoing discussion, it follows that goddesses, who originally embodied the earth in its wholeness and its fertility, became attached to specific parts of the land. The tribes venerated goddesses, sometimes eponymous of their name, who presided over their territory and inhabitants. In other words, the land-goddess became the representative of the sept* and the sovereign patroness of their territory. They were certainly invoked for the fertility of the soil, the maturing of the crops and the growth of the cattle, which ensured the survival and vitality of the tribe. In addition, they must have been prayed to for the protection of the territory against invaders and enemies. In her role of patroness, the land-territorial goddess was endowed with martial attributes and aspects and turned into a war-goddess, who took on different names and forms according to the regions and tribes.

The Irish goddesses Mórrígain and Macha are significant examples of this development. They are goddesses possessing pronounced agrarian features, who are the patronesses of a specific tribe and part of the territory: the Ulaid and Ulster. Their war-like aspect is evidenced by the Irish texts, which describe them as a trio of fierce and dreaded war-goddesses, taking part in battle and revelling in carnage. In her character, the British Brigantia also reflects the complex pattern of the land-tribal-war-goddess. First, it was noted that her name referred to a high place or hill. This indicates that she was originally related to the landscape. Furthermore, her name shows she was the tribal protective goddess of the Brigantes, who were settled in the north of Britain. Finally, a relief* from Birrens (Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland) portrays her as a warrioress holding a spear and a helmet and various inscriptions equated her with Roman goddesses of war, such as Victory and Caelestis. The Gaulish goddess Litavi ‘Earth’ also exemplifies the development of the land-goddess into a war-goddess, since her name is replaced by the Roman goddess of war Bellona in an inscription from Mâlain, where she is venerated with Mars Cicollus.

While Irish mythology offers detailed accounts of the war-goddesses, data evidencing their existence and worship in Gaul and Britain are scattered and fragmentary and thus difficult to interpret. As demonstrated in this chapter, there is however evidence of a cult rendered to martial goddesses. In Britain, two reliefs* picture the goddesses Brigantia and Rigani with offensive weapons. In Gaul, several coins depict divine naked warrioresses frantically running, riding a horse at gallop or driving a cart launched at tremendous speed. They brandish weapons and seem to be charging at the enemy and entering the fray. Moreover, various goddess names refer to protection (Anextlomara), war-like feelings, such as strength (Belisama), fury (Vercana) or courage (Exomana, Noreia). Some achieve the protection of the city (Dunisia, Bibracte, Vesunna), while others ensure victory and triumph over the foe, such as Segeta (‘the Victorious One’), Segomanna (‘Victory Giver’), Boudina/Boudiga (‘Victory’), Camuloriga (‘Queen of the Champions’), Ricoria (‘Liberating Queen’ or ‘Great Warrioress’), Coriotana (‘Mistress of the Troops?’), etc.

In Irish mythology, the war-goddesses do not seem to achieve a military role like the gods. Their influence on the course of the battle is mystical and supernatural. The texts never describe them taking up arms and fighting in the mêlée, but reciting incantations, foretelling slaughter, uttering terrifying cries and casting powerful spells which bring their enemies down. They are thus more to be looked upon as magicians rather than warrioresses in the strict sense of the word. Gallo-British iconography nevertheless offers representations of goddesses armed to the teeth and directly taking part in the conflict. This military aspect is echoed in Irish mythology in the characters of Scáthach (‘Shadow’, ‘Shelter’ or ‘Protective’) and Aífe (‘Pleasant’, ‘Beautiful’ or ‘Radiant’), two terrible warrioresses inhabiting Alba (Scotland), who train the hero Cú Chulainn in the early medieval text Tochmarc Emire [‘The Wooing of Emer’].1649 FromScáthach, Cú Chulainn gets his spear, the Gáe Bulga, and learns various martial techniques, notably the salmon leap and the torannchless or ‘thunder feat’.1650 Being indebted to Scáthach for her training, Cú Chulainn accepts to fight her enemy warrioress Aífe and defeats her in single combat. Aífe then becomes his lover and teaches him other warrior’s skills, such as chariot-driving, casting or juggling. She bears him a son, called Connla, whom Cú Chulainn slays in Aided Óenfhir Aife [‘The Death of Aife’s Only Son’].1651 In the imagery of the Gallo-British Celts, war-goddesses were probably close in character to the mythical warrioresses Scáthach and Aífe. In addition, like the Mórrígain, Badb and Macha/Nemain, they must have been invested with supernatural powers and were believed to magically influence the fighting.

For the Celts, war and religion were interelated: the warriors and the course of the battle were in the hands of the deities. The war sanctuaries of Gournay-sur-Aronde (Oise) or Ribemont-sur-Ancre (Somme) clearly illustrate that aspect. Before going into battle, warriors would pray and invoke the powers of the gods. Without their support and protection, they would not go to war. After the battle, they would go back to the sanctuary and deposit their spoils of war to glorify the deity who had given them the force and courage to vanquish. The little knowledge we have of Gallo-British goddesses only allows us to suggest some tentative hypotheses. By analogy with Irish mythology, the representations on coins and reliefs* and the names of some goddesses, it can be assumed that war-goddesses were invoked before a battle took place, so that they would bring their supernatural support to the warriors. Dio Cassius’s account of Bouddica appealing to the strength and protection of the goddess Andrasta (‘the Invicible One’) on the eve of the revolt against the Romans, is evocative of such religious war rites. The war-goddesses were the ones who encouraged and motivated the warriors, gave them the necessary physical and mental strength to overcome the enemy, and led them to victory.

The belief in a crow-shaped goddess, reflected in the character of Badb, who is seen hovering over the battlefield and gnawing the corpses of the dead warriors, was undeniably common to the various Celtic peoples, since two inscriptions from the Continent are dedicated to Cassibodua and Cathubodua (or Athubodua). The association of Cassibodua with Victory clearly points to her war-like character. If the restitution Cathubodua is the correct one, the goddess is identifiable with Badb Catha (‘the Battle Crow’) and identical to her: she is related to war. The cult of a goddess in crow shape must have been a reflection of a custom specific to the Celts, which consisted in abandoning the corpses of the dead warriors on the battlefield to be devoured by birds of prey, because those birds were regarded as sacred animals commuting between the human and supernatural worlds and conveying the souls to the otherworld. This death rite is evidenced by several Classical texts and pre-Roman drawings engraved on stone or vases, notably coming from Celtic Hispania.

The character of some goddesses remains complex and difficult to unravel. In addition to being attributed agrarian, sovereign, protective and war features, Brigantia was given the title of Nymph in an inscription from Brampton (Hadrian’s Wall),1652 which relates her to water and points to her healing aptitudes. Similarly, the goddess Segeta (‘the Victorious One’), who must have been a goddess of war given the significance of her name, is worshipped in relation with curative springs. Her function of healer is evidenced by anatomic ex-votos* deposited in curative water shrines. Water was particularly revered in ancient times and many goddesses seem to have presided over rivers, springs and fountains throughout Gaul, Britain and Ireland.


1229. Jullian, 1887, vol. 1, p. 62.
1230. Book IV, 4, 2.
1231. Book VI, 16.
1232. Brunaux, 1986, pp. 101-113.
1233. See Fichtl, 2004 and the map of Gaul at the beginning of the 1st c. AD, p. 9 ; Barruol, 1999.
1234. Neumann, 1987, pp. 111, 116 ; RGA, Band 19, p. 439 ; De Vries, 1931, p. 98 ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 425 ; Spickermann, 2002, p. 147 ; Specht, 1937, p. 6.
1235. CIL XIII, 3569.
1236. Kruta, 2000, pp. 752-753 ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 416.
1237. AE 1990, 733 ; RDG, p. 83.
1238. Delamarre, 2007, pp. 39, 42, 212-213 ; Delamarre, 2003, pp. 72, 76-77.
1239. Spickermann, 2005, p. 141 ; Delamarre, 2003, p. 257 ; Kruta, 2000, p. 793.
1240. Spickermann, 2005, p. 141 ; De Vries, 1963, p. 130 ; Duval, 1957, p. 53 ; Vendryes, 1997, p. 46 ; Delamarre, 2003, p. 301 ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 416 ; RDG, p. 81 ; Kruta, 2000, p. 844.
1241. CIL XIII, 8634.
1242. CIL XII, 2221 ; ILN V.2, n° 360 ; CAG, 38/1, L’Isère, 1994, p. 168, n° 371 ; ILG 11.
1243. Olmsted, 1994, pp. 415-416 ; Vendryes, 1997, p. 41 ; Kruta, 2000, p. 751.
1244. F 324.
1245. N 12.
1246. CIL XIII, 7253.
1247. CIL XIII, 6131.
1248. RIB 140 was found in the lower of Stall Street, Bath.
1249. Delamarre, 2003, p. 233-234 ; Lambert, 1995, pp. 37-38 ; Lambert, 2006, p. 53 ; De Vries, 1963, p. 130 ; Guyonvarc’h, 1986, pp. 226-228 ; Kruta, 2000, pp. 751-752 ; ILN V.2, p. 66.
1250. Lambert, 2006, pp. 53, 55.
1251. The inscription from Metz remains hypothetical, CIL XIII, 4304: Dis M Senon(u)m Tris et Domin(o) Mer(curio) Cosumi ex iussu Mercur(ii) ; CIL XIII, 6475.
1252. Delamarre, 2003, pp. 270-271 ; Delamarre, 2007, p. 231 ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 289 ; De Bernardo Stempel, 2005, p. 22 ; Kruta, 2000, p. 815.
1253. CIL XIII, 7565. See Chapter 2.
1254. Olmsted, 1994, p. 430.
1255. CIL XIII, 7889, 7890, 7895, 8491, 8496.
1256. Gutenbrunner, 1936, p. 190 ; Schmidt, 1987, p. 148 ; Spickermann, 2005, p. 143 ; AE 1967, 344: Matronis Gesationum Iul(ia) Ver[i] f(ilia) Attia vslm. The name Attia is Celtic, see Delamarre, 2007, p. 32, but the significance is unknown.
1257. See Chapter 1 for more details. Rüger, 1987, p. 30 ; Delamarre, 2003, p. 174 ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 415 suggests that they are Germanic and could have been the protective Mothers of an unrecorded tribe called the Gesationes ; Barruol, 1999, pp. 305-307.
1258. CIL XIII, 1765 ; Vendryes, 1997, p. 46. The inscription was discovered near the wall of the garden of the Castle of Yvourt, near Lyon. The stone had been re-used* in the wall of the castle.
1259. Kruta, 2000, p. 593.
1260. Barruol, 1999, pp. 365-367. See Chapter 5 for another interpretation of their name.
1261. CIL V, 7872, 7873 ; De Vries, 1963, p. 130 ; Duval, 1957, p. 53 ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 423 and De Vries, 1931, p. 98, thinks they are Mothers presiding over the town Vediantia in North Italy.
1262. Enistalius is probably composed of eni-, ‘in’ and stal– (?). See Delamarre, 2007, pp. 95, 221, 232 ; Delamarre, 2003, p. 163.
1263. Barruol, 1999, p. 366.
1264. Bretaudeau, 1986, pp. 41-47 ; Oggiano-Bitar, 1996, p. 273 ; CAG, 84.2, Le Lubéron et Pays d’Apt, 2004, pp. 214-217.
1265. ILN, III, n°220, pp. 285-286 ; CAG, 84.2, Le Lubéron et Pays d’Apt, 2004, p. 222 ; RE, vol. 3, p. 465.
1266. ILN, III, n°221, pp. 286-287 ; CAG, 84.2, Le Lubéron et Pays d’Apt, 2004, p. 214 and fig. 218.
1267. Benoit, 1959, pp. 66, 131, note 28.
1268. Three descriptions of the content of this treasure are known, one of which is by Calvet, Cl.-E., 1774, ms. 5617, lettre 617. See CAG, 84.2, Le Lubéron et Pays d’Apt, 2004, pp. 216-217 for the reproduction of those three descriptions.
1269. ILN, III, n°222, pp. 287-288 ; CAG, 84.2, Le Lubéron et Pays d’Apt, 2004, pp. 222-223 and fig. 219 ; Barruol, 1999, p. 204, n°3 ; RE, vol. 3, pp. 465-466.
1270. Barruol, 1999, p. 204, n°3.
1271. ILN, III, p. 288 ; Ihm, 1887, p. 52.
1272. AE 1992, 1170 ; ILN, III, n°223, pp. 288-289 ; CAG, 84.2, Le Lubéron et Pays d’Apt, 2004, p. 222 and fig. 226 ; Barruol, 1999, p. 204, n°3 ; Gascou, 1994, p. 210 specifies that the end of the inscription might be understood as [C]or(nelius ?) Arp[.]. The cognomen* of the dedicator could be Arpocra, Arpocrates, Arpocratianus, etc.
1273. Pliny, Natural History, 3, 34 ; Barruol, 1961, pp. 3-35 ; Barruol, 1999, pp. 203-206.
1274. Delamarre, 2003, p. 143 ; Anwyl, 1906a, p. 33.
1275. See Chapter 2 and the section on Brigantia in this chapter for more details.
1276. Ptolemy, Geography, II, 3 ; Tacitus, Agricola, 17 & Annales, XII, 32 & Histoire, III, 45.
1277. Ó hÓgáin, 2002, p. 15.
1278. Barruol, 1999, pp. 338-340.
1279. Olmsted, 1994, p. 360 ; Ó hÓgáin, 2002, p. 174.
1280. Kruta, 2000, p. 496 ; Ó hÓgáin, 2002, pp. 181-184.
1281. Joliffe, 1941, pp. 41, 48 ; Miller, 1937, p. 208-209. The Severan Dynasty (193-235) is composed of the Emperors Septimius Severus, Caracalla, Elagabalus and Alexander Severus.
1282. Ó hÓgáin, 2002, pp. 193, 195 ; Ó hÓgáin, 2006, p. 50 ; Joliffe, 1941, p. 37 ; Macalister, 1928, p. 17.
1283. Ptolemy, Geography, II, 2, 6.
1284. Ó hÓgáin, 2002, pp. 193, 195 ; Ó hÓgáin, 2006, p. 305.
1285. Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 305-306 ; Mackillop, 2004, pp. 146, 246-247, 291.
1286. Delamarre, 2003, p. 174: gaiso– ‘javelin’ & p. 203: ling– ‘to jump’.
1287. Ó hÓgáin, 1999, pp. 163-165.
1288. Raftery, 2006, pp. 63-68 ; Kruta, 2000, pp. 833-834.
1289. Ó Máille, 1928, pp. 137-138 refers to the Book of Leinster (LL) 380 a 53.
1290. Ó hÓgáin, 2006, p. 340 ; Mackillop, 2004, p. 327.
1291. Ó Máille, 1928, p. 131 ; O’Neill, 1905, pp. 178-179, 182-185.
1292. Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 118-119 ; Ó hÓgáin, 1999, pp. 165-171 ; Mackillop, 2004, p. 102. For information about the king Conn Céadchathach (earlier Cond Cétchathach), i.e. ‘wise leader of the hundred battles’, see Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 115-118.
1293. Carney, 1971, pp. 73-80 ; Henry, 1997, pp. 56-64 ; Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 217- 219, 340.
1294. Raftery, 2006, pp. 68-70 ; Kruta, 2000, p. 790.
1295. Raftery, 2006, pp. 73-78 ; Kruta, 2000, pp. 748-750 ; Ó hÓgáin, 1999, pp. 171-177.
1296. Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 325-327.
1297. Ó hÓgáin, 2006, p. 325.
1298. Best, Bergin and O’Brien, 1954, pp. 79-85 ; Dumézil, 1954, pp. 9-11 gives a French translation of the text.
1299. Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 202-204 ; Mackillop, 2004, p. 189.
1300. Mac Cana, 1955-1956, pp. 78-85 ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 162.
1301. O’Nolan, 1912, pp. 261-282 ; The two texts published by Mac Eoin, 1978, pp. 63-82, which also recount the story of Mór Muman and her sister Suithchern, with variants in the king names, is not studied here, because the texts, dating from the 14th – 15th c., are too late to be taken into account.
1302. Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 202-203
1303. Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 67-68 ; Mackillop, 2004, p. 81.
1304. O’Nolan, 1912, p. 274.
1305. Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 85-86 ; Green, 1992a, p. 62 ; Mackillop, 2004, pp. 90-91. See Chapter 4 for more details.
1306. Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp.58-60 ; Chalendon, 1994, pp. 306-308 ; Mackillop, 2004, pp. 68-70.
1307. Hull, 1928, pp. 51-52.
1308. Murphy, 1953a, pp. 83-109 ; Radner, 1974, pp. 75-81.
1309. Mackillop, 2004, pp. 69-70.
1310. Ó hÓgáin, 2006, p. 20.
1311. Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 7-8 ; Mackillop, 2004, p. 10 ; Hogan, 1910, p. 272 ; O’Rahilly, pp. 286-290 ; Hull, 1928, pp. 50-51.
1312. Stokes & Windisch, 1891, vol. 3.1, p. 83: Aíne íngen manandain mac lir in la roleg a fer totaetsi anniar armucheannsa combimsea thiar inatigh seach gach teg, “Áine daughter of Manannán mac Lir, on the day that she left her husband, she came from the west to meet me, so that I was in the west in her house, rather than in any other house.” (12th-century poem)
1313. In the 12th-century text Acallamh na Senórach [‘The Colloquy of the Old Men’], she is the daughter of Eoghabhal and falls in love with Manannán mac Lir. See Stokes, 1900, pp. 104-105 ; O’Grady, 1892, pp. 196-197. The name Eógabal has the same root as Eógan (indicating the yew-tree as a form of the sept’s mythical ancestor or god). In later form, Eógan is written Eoghan, and Eógabal (or Eógabul) as Eoghabhal.
1314. Gwynn, 1913, pp. 114-115, 499.
1315. Ó Daly, 1975, pp. 38-39.
1316. Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 6-7 ; Mackillop, 2004, p. 9.
1317. In another late text, dating from the 13th or 14th c., the fairy lady explains that she gives her name to the hill. O’Grady, 1892, pp. 575-576: ‘ingébatsa’ ar Ainne fhionn ‘na cúig catha do bar cionn ; is sloinnter uaim in cnoc cain re ré shíl Eba is Adaim !’, “Said fair-haired Aine: ‘of those five battalions stress I will relieve you, and for all duration of Eve’s seed and Adam’s let the charming hill have its name from me.’”
1318. Ó Daly, 1975, pp. 38-39.
1319. Hull, 1928, p. 51 ; Mackillop, 2004, pp. 10, 16.
1320. Gray, 1982, pp. 44-45, § 84.
1321. Dumézil, 1954, p. 11.
1322. RIB 2091.
1323. RIB 1131, 627, 628.
1324. Mac Cana, 1970, p. 86 ; Sterckx, 2000, p. 71 ; Le Roux, 1983, pp. 111-113. Le Roux’s translation of Nemain as ‘Sacred’ – because of its similarity with the Gaulish goddess Nemetona, whose name signifies ‘sacred wood’ – is inaccurate and irrelevant.
1325. Hennessy, 1870, p. 35.
1326. Nét from Celtic netos ‘leader’. Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 363, 374 ; O’Donovan, 1842, p. 241 ; Meyer, 1912, p. 82.
1327. MS. H. 3. 18 Trinity College, Dublin, p. 82, col. 2 ; Hennessy, 1870, p. 36.
1328. Delamarre, 2003, p. 81 ; Ó hÓgáin, 2006, p. 26 ; Hennessy, 1870, p. 33.
1329. Lambert, 2006, p. 56.
1330. Delamarre, 2003, p. 111 ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 411 ; Le Roux, 1985, pp. 102-111.
1331. CIL XII, 2571.
1332. Pictet is the first one to have proposed this reconstruction: Pictet, 1867, pp. 112-113 ; Pictet, 1868, pp.1-17 ; Hennessy, 1870, pp. 32-33 ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 285 ; Le Roux, 1983, pp. 102-111.
1333. RE, vol. 3, pp. 327-328 ; Toutain, 1917, p. 306 ; ILHS 77, pp. 102-103 ; Pelletier, 2004, p. 207 ; CAG, 74, Haute-Savoie, 1999, p. 274 and fig. 249.
1334. Delamarre, 2003, p. 81 ; Simek, 2007, p. 26.
1335. Book IV, 73 ; Church & Brodribb, 1891. The Frisians were a Germanic tribe inhabiting along the coast of the North Sea (the Netherlands and Germany).
1336. CIL XIII, 4525
1337. Raepsaet-Charlier, 1993, pp. 9-11.
1338. Lambert, 1995, p. 35 ; Delamarre, 2003, pp. 109-110: when –casses is the second element of a word, it has the meaning of ‘curled (hair)’, e.g. the proper names Su-casses (‘Beautiful-Curls’), Tri-casses (‘(who have) Three-Curls’), etc. ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 411.
1339. Duval, 1957, p. 57.
1340. Guirand & Schmidt, 2006, pp. 261, 870.
1341. Stokes, 1900, vol. 1, pp. 217, 813.
1342. For a study of the various symbolical meanings of the crow, see the section on Nantosuelta in Chapter 2. Green, 1992a, pp. 69 ; Mackillop, 2004, p. 113 ; Green, 1992, pp. 177-181 ; Green, 2001, pp. 26-27, 142-144 ; Ross, 1996, pp. 311-330, 366-368 ; Duval, 1987, pp. 20-21 ; Chevalier & Gheerbrant, 1969, pp. 85-86.
1343. Duval, 1977, pp. 78, 106 ; Kruta, 2000, pp. 548, 522 ; Birkhan, 1999, p. 380, n° 731.
1344. Goudineau, 2006, pp. 60-61, 73.
1345. Ó hÓgáin, 1999, pp. 22, 55 ; Lamblard, 2004, pp. 29-30.
1346. Book 10, Chapter 21, 6 ; Jones & Ormerod, 1959-1961. For more details about Brennos and the historical context of this account, see Ó hÓgáin, 1999, pp. 53-59.
1347. Aelien, Historia Animali, Book 10, 22.
1348. Silius Italicus, Punica, Book III, 340-344.
1349. Silius Italicus, Punica, Book XIII, 470.
1350. García y Bellido, 1949, vol. 1, n. 361, pp. 367-368, vol. 2, lám. 265, n°361 ; Martínez de Burgos, 1935, p. 35, n° 146, lám. IX ; Blázquez, 1963, pp. 422-423 ; Maia-Bessa, 1999, p. 118.
1351. Schulten, 1931, pl. XXII.
1352. Brunaux, 2004, p. 120 and p. 121, fig. 54 ; Marco Simón, 1976, pp. 76-77, pl. 2, fig. 1.
1353. Brunaux, 2004, p. 118 and p. 129, fig. 55.
1354. Van Hamel, 1933, pp. 110, 113 ; Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 142-143.
1355. Van Hamel, 1933, pp. 73-133.
1356. Brunaux, 2004, pp. 120-124. See infra for details on the sanctuary.
1357. Brunaux, 2004, p. 122.
1358. See Chapter 2, the section on Nantosuelta for more details.
1359. Le Roux, 1985, pp. 97-102 ; Ó hÓgáin, 1999, p. 66 ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 409 ; Sjoestedt, 2000, p. 5 translates ‘Queen of Demons’, which is inaccurate ; De Vries, 1963, p. 146 ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 379 translates her name simply by ‘the Queen’ ; Mac Cana, 1970, p. 86 ‘Phantom Queen’.
1360. McCone, 1998, pp. 1–12 ; Delamarre, 2003, p. 258.
1361. Stokes, 1891a, p. 128 ; Thurneysen, 1921, p. 63 ; Kluge, 1934, p. 371a.
1362. Ó hÓgáin, 2006, p. 259 ; Le Roux, 1983, pp. 100-102.
1363. Ó hÓgáin, 2006, p. 361 ; Ó hÓgáin, 1999, pp. 66, 227, note 180. Her name survived in the fairy lady Morgane of the Arthurian legends, see Marx, Jean, La Légende arthurienne et le Graal, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1952, p. 70.
1364. CIL XIII, 8518 ; RDG, p. 83.
1365. RIB 1084. In the Chapter Library, Durham.
1366. AE 1950, 134. Lemington is situated near Moreton in the Marsh. The relief and inscription was not found in Chedworth as mentioned in RDG, p. 59. The relief found in Chedworth is actually dedicated to [L]EN MARTI and represents a god holding a spear and an axe (AE 1950, 135).
1367. (Anonymous), 1949, p. 114. A picture or drawing of the relief was unavailable.
1368. See later in this chapter.
1369. CIL XII, 1060. On the left and right sides of the cippus* is engraved the word serta. Between the divine name and the votive formula the words corona corona are written.
1370. See ILN, IV, p. 141; Barruol, 1963, p. 356 for a discussion of the various interpretations and references.
1371. Inscriptions to Albiorix in Mont Genèvre: AE 1945, 105b,c,d and 106 ; Vaison-la-Romaine: CIL XII, 1300 ; Montsalier: AE 1990, 710. See Barruol, 1999, pp. 356-362 ; Lavagne, 1979, pp. 171-173 ; Capello, C. F., ‘Una stipe votive d’età romana sul monte Genevris (Alpi Cozie)’, in Rivista Ingauna e Intemelia, 19, 1941, pp. 96-137. There is also a god Albius partnered with Damona in Aignay-le-Duc: CIL XIII, 11233.
1372. Delamarre, 2003, pp. 37-38 ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 417 ; ILN, IV, p. 141 ; Barruol, 1999, p. 358.
1373. AE 1989, 521: Postumus Du[m]norigis f(ilius) verc(obretus) ; Evans, 1967, pp. 301-303 ; Delamarre, 2003, p. 151 ; Delamarre, 2007, pp. 91, 220 ; Olmsted, 1994, pp. 345-346 ; Anwyl, 1906a, p. 33 ; Sterckx, 1998, pp. 27-28.
1374. Sterckx, 1998, p. 27 ; Sterckx, 1996, pp. 41-42.
1375. Delamarre, 2007, p. 16.
1376. See Chapter 2, pp. 174-176.
1377. See Chapter 2, p. 1755, note 795 for the references.
1378. CIL XIII, 1190 ; RIB 711.
1379. RIB 187.
1380. RIB 245b ; Delamarre, 2003, pp. 233-234 ; Delamarre, 2007, pp. 228, 230.
1381. Ó hÓgáin, 1999, p. 67 ; De Vries, 1963, pp. 90, 134 ; Mac Cana, 1970, pp. 80-83. For an English translation of the Mabinogi, see Gantz, 1976. For a study of the divine figure Rhiannon, see Gruffydd, 1953. For details about Rhiannon and a summary of the Mabinogi, see Mackillop, 2004, pp. 371-372, 312-317.
1382. De Vries, 1963, p. 90 ; Sherman, 1927, p. 239.
1383. Fraser, 1916, pp. 34-35, § 39.
1384. Fraser, 1916, pp. 44-45, § 48.
1385. Fraser, 1916, pp. 26-27, § 29.
1386. For more details on Lug, see Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 311-315 ; Beck, 2004.
1387. Gray, 1982, pp. 52-53, § 106-107, and notes p. 103.
1388. Gray, 1982, pp. 64-65, § 137.
1389. Chalendon, 1994, pp. 311-321.
1390. O’Rahilly, 1976, pp. 57, 176-177.
1391. O’Rahilly, 1976, pp. 60-61 , 180-181
1392. O’Rahilly, 1970, pp. 7, 131, lines 210-214.
1393. O’Rahilly, 1970, pp. 64, 183, lines 2084-2088.
1394. O’Rahilly, 1970, pp. 107, 220, line 3537.
1395. O’Rahilly, 1970, pp. 121, 231, lines 3942-3945.
1396. Dún na nGédh is a fortress near Dowth, Co. Meath.
1397. O’Donovan, 1842, p. xviii.
1398. Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 176-178 (Domhnall mac Aodha), 486 (Uí Néill).
1399. O’Donovan, 1842, pp. 198-199.
1400. Áes, ‘people, folk, those who’ and dán, ‘art, profession’, i.e. ‘people of an art’, including poets and craftsmen, physicians and lawyers, etc, see Gray, 1982, p. 98.
1401. Gray, 1982, pp. 44-47, § 85-86.
1402. Gray, 1982, pp. 70-73, § 166-167 and notes pp. 113-114.
1403. O’Rahilly, 1976, pp. 30, 152.
1404. O’Rahilly, 1976, pp. 117, 229-230.
1405. For more information on the Fianna Cycle, see Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 227-233, and on Fionn Mac Cumhaill, pp. 238-249.
1406. Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 260-261 ; Meyer, 1910, p. 3.
1407. Meyer, 1910, pp. 1, 16-17. This poem is contained in only one paper manuscript marked B. IV. 2, which is in the Library of the Royal Irish Academy.
1408. Macculogh, in ERE, vol. 3, 1953, p. 286 ; Chalendon, 1994, p. 301 ; Hull, 1928, pp. 59-60.
1409. Hull, in ERE, 5, p. 783.
1410. The Battle of Dysert O’Dea took place on May 10th 1318 (during the Irish Bruce Wars 1315-1318).
1411. Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 120-129 ; Mackillop, 2004, pp. 61, 105-106.
1412. Stokes, 1862, pp. 156-159.
1413. Souvestre, Emile, ‘Les lavandières de la nuit’, in Le Foyer Breton, Paris, 1845, pp. 69-75 ; Souvestre, Emile, D’Anjou, Pierre, Contes de Bretagne, Ancre de Marine, 1946, pp 115-122 ; Souvestre, Emile, Les lavandières de nuit, in Seignolle, Claude, Contes, récits et légendes des pays de France, Omnibus, 1997, pp. 207-213 ; Brunet, Victor, Contes populaires de la Basse Normandie, Emile Lechevalier (ed.), 1900, pp. 59-64 ; Cuisenier, Jean, Récits et contes populaires de Normandie, Gallimard, 1979, pp. 99-102 ; Sébillot, Paul, Légendes locales de la Haute Bretagne, Société des bibliophiles Bretons, Nantes, 1899, t. I, p 143 ; Sébillot, 2004, pp. 628-630 ; Sand, Georges, Légendes rustiques (1858), Editions Verso, Guéret, 1987, pp. 31-37 ; Le Roux, 1983, pp. 79-88 ; Evans-Wentz, 1911, p. 185.
1414. Le Men, 1870-1872, p. 421.
1415. Souvestre, Emile, ‘Les lavandières de la nuit’, in Le Foyer Breton, Paris, 1845, pp. 69-75.
1416. Le Braz, Anatole, La légende de la mort chez les Bretons armoricains, t. II, 1945, pp. 259-263.
1417. Marmier, 1947, pp. 27-28, 32.
1418. Homer’s Illiad tells that each god chose his camp according to his desire (Book XX, v.1-74). Phoebus Apollo, Ares, Aphrodite, Artemis, Leto and Xanthus (the river) sided with the Trojans, while Hera, Pallas Athene, Poseidon, Hermes and Hephaestus allied themselves with the Greeks. A veritable war then began between the gods. Poseidon was pitted against Apollo, Athena against Ares, Hera against Artemis, Hermes against Leto and Hephaestus against Xanthus (Book XXI, v.385-513).
1419. For a discussion of this, see Lysaght, 1996a.
1420. Mackillop, 2004, p. 33, 46.
1421. Pearse, 1898, pp. 15-16 (translation by O’Sullivan).
1422. Lysaght, 1996a ; Lysaght, 1979, pp. 7-29 ; Lysaght, 1996, pp. 152-165 ; Wood-Martin, 1902, pp. 364-371 ; Ackerman, 1990 ; Chalendon, 1994, pp. 295-301, 330-334 ; Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 31-32 ; Chevallier & Gheerbrant, 1991, p. 430 ; Mackillop, 2004, pp. 33-34 ; Anwyl, in ERE, 5, p. 574 ; Evans-Wentz, 1911, pp. 188-189 ; Hull, 1928, p. 59.
1423. Lysaght, 1996a, pp. 24-25: see the map of the general distribution of the death-messenger belief.
1424. Hull, in ERE, vol. 5, 1955, p. 783.
1425. Lysaght, 1996a, p. 84 (Laois 19)
1426 For other stories about the banshee, see Yeats, 1888, pp. 108-127 ; Croker, 1998 ; O’Hanlon, 1870 ; O’Donnell, 1926 ; Todhunter, 1888. Lysaght, 1996a, pp. 34-37 ; Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 27-28 ; Chalendon, 1994, p. 301.
1427. Glassie, 1987, p. 129.
1428. Lysaght, 1996a, pp. 34-37 ; Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 27-28 ; Chalendon, 1994, p. 301.
1429. Evans-Wentz, 1911, pp. 251-252.
1430. Lysaght, 1996a, pp. 38-40, 68-71 ; Lysaght, 1996, pp. 153-154 ; Lysaght, 1997, pp. 65-82 ; Sullivan, 2007, pp. 1-11.
1431. O’Rahilly, 1946a, p. 3 ; Ó hÓgáin, 2006, p. 20 ; Mackillop, 2004, p. 5.
1432. O’Rahilly, 1946a, p. 4 ; Ó hÓgáin, 2006, p. 20.
1433. Ó hÓgáin, 2006, p. 7 ; Mackillop, 2004, p. 10.
1434. Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 45-48, 365-366.
1435. Todd, 1867, pp. 200-201. The same account is recounted in Hennessy, 1871, vol. 1, pp. 8-9. The banshee is called Oebhinn, daughter of Donn-Oilen.
1436. Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 20 ; 365-366.
1437. Mac Cionnaith, 1938, p. 323.
1438. Hull, in ERE, vol. 5, 1955, p. 783.
1439. O’Rahilly, 1946, p. 518.
1440. O’Donovan, in OSL, Co. Londonderry, Gaelic Manuscript Collection, Royal Irish Academy (MS. R.I.A.), Dublin, 1834, pp. 228 ff.
1441. Cadoux, Jean-Louis, ‘L’ossuaire gaulois de Ribemont-sur-Ancre’, in Gallia, 42, 1984, pp. 53-78 ; Fercoq du Leslay, Gérard, ‘Chronologie et analyse spatiale à Ribemont-sur-Ancre (Somme)’, in RAP, n°3/4, 1996, pp. 189-208 ; Kruta, 2000, pp. 794-795 ; Brunaux, 1986, pp. 21-26 ; Brunaux, 2000, pp. 101-112 ; Brunaux, 2004, pp. 103-124.
1442. Brunaux, 2004, pp. 110-113.
1443. Brunaux, 2004, pp. 114-118 ; Brunaux, 2000, pp. 110-111
1444. Brunaux, Jean-Louis, Le sanctuaire de Gournay-sur-Aronde et la religion gauloise, Thèse de 3ème cycle, Université François Rabelais, Tours, 1981 ; Brunaux, 1986, pp. 17-20 ; Brunaux, 2000, pp. 91-101 ; Brunaux, 2004, pp. 92-103.
1445. See Delamarre, 2003, pp. 83-84: Gaulish boudi ‘victory, advantage, profit’, cognate with Old Irish búaid ‘victory’, búadach, ‘victorious’, Welsh budd, Old Breton bud ‘advantage, profit’ ; Webster, 1978, p. 15 ; Kruta, 2000, p. 486.
1446. For more information on Boudicca, see Tacitus, Annales, XIV, 30-35 ; Tacitus, Agricola, 16 ; Dio Cassius, History of Rome, LXII, pp. 1ff ; Dudley & Webster, 1962 ; Webster, 1978 ; Andrews, 1972 ; Green, 1995, pp. 33-34.
1447. Holder, ACS, vol. 1, p. 151.
1448. Book, LXII, 6 ; Foster, 1906, vol. 5, Books 61-76.
1449. Green, 1995, p. 32 ; Webster, 1986, p. 54 mentions that this idea was put forward by Ross, but he does not give his references.
1450. Book LXII, 7 ; Foster, 1906, vol. 5, Books 61-76.
1451. Duval, 1987, pp. 42-43.
1452. Duval, 1987, pp. 54-59 ; Depeyrot, 2005c, pp. 122-124, 133-134, n°135 and plate 4, n° 135 ; Delestrée, 2004, série 263B, n°2082.
1453. Duval, 1987, pp. 60-63 ; Depeyrot, 2005c, pp. 124, 137, n°141 and plate 4, n°141 ; Delestrée, 2004, série 263C, n°2089, 2090 and p. 52.
1454. Duval, 1987, pp. 48-52. A coin of the same type is in Depeyrot, 2005, p. 190, n°153 and pl. 4, n° 153.
1455. Brunaux, 2004, pp. 112-114.
1456. Brunaux, 1986, pp. 109-110.
1457. Delestrée, 2004, série 224, n°2022 and p. 40.
1458. Guihard, 2008, pp. 26-27, n°1.
1459. De Vries, 1963, p. 144.
1460. Brunaux, 2000, pp. 190-191, 211-213 ; Ó hÓgáin, 2000, pp. 19, 85-86, 95, 111-112.
1461. Brunaux, 2004, p. 69, fig. 29, and p. 172: sculpture of a dying naked Gaulish warrior, in the Museum of Capitole, Roma.
1462. Book 5, 30-3 ; Brunaux, 1986, pp. 106-107. Diodorus Siculus was a Greek Sicilian historian who wrote around 60-30 BC. His Library of History was a history of the Mediterranean world from its beginnings in forty volumes or books – only fifteen have survived.
1463. Book II, 29-30 ; Scott-Kilvert, 1979.
1464. Brunaux, 1987, p. 84: “Les femmes sont absentes de cette histoire militaire des Gaulois, comme si elles étaient exclues du monde guerrier. Aucun texte ne mentionne leur présence dans l’armée et sur les champs de bataille. Il est encore moins question de leur place.”
1465. Book V, 32, 2.
1466. Book XV, 12, 1; Yonge, 1862, Book 15, pp.45-82.
1467. Book 19, 9 ; Perrin, 1988 ; Kruta, 2000, p. 410 ; Green, 2005, p. 29. Plutarch was a Greek essayist and biographer ( c. 46 AD to c. 127 AD), who wrote numerous treatises and dialogues on philosophical, religious, scientific and literary subject (the Moralia), and twenty-three pairs of Parallels Lives, biographies of Greeks and Romans (both mythical and historical).
1468. Book 14, 30 ; Church & Brodribb, 1891.
1469. Book 14, 34 ; Church & Brodribb, 1891.
1470. Book 4, 18 ; Church & Brodribb, 1898.
1471. AE 1916, 2 ; F 94.
1472. Nélis-clément, 2008, p. 91, n°1. It was discovered between insulae (houses) 14 and 15.
1473. Delamarre, 2003, pp. 49’ 218 ; Delamarre, 2007, pp. 211, 226.
1474. RIB II, 2 / 2415.55 ; CIL XIII, 3190 ; Schmidt, 1957, p. 131 ; Olmsted, 1994, pp. 385-386 ; Lambert, 2006, p. 54.
1475. CAG, 42, Loire, 1997, p. 72.
1476. CIL XIII, 1646 ; RE, vol. 1, n°131.
1477. RE, vol. 1, p. 115, n°131 ; Lajoye, 2006, p. 75.
1478. CIL XIII, 2899: Marti Bolvinno Dun[ati]. According to Olmsted, 1994, p. 346, the epithet Bolvinnus is topographical, for it must have been the ancient name of the city of Bouhy.
1479. CIL XIII, 2532: Deo Marti Segomoni Dunati.
1480. Olmsted, 1994, p. 338 ; Delamarre, 2003, pp. 154-156 ; Delamarre, 2007, p. 220 ; Lambert, 1995, pp. 37, 203 ; Guyonvarc’h, 1963, pp. 363-376 (with a list of the various Lugdunum found in Gaul).
1481. Fichtl, 2000, pp. 31-34.
1482. Fichtl, 2000, pp. 29-30 ; Kruta, 2000, pp. 762-763.
1483. Kruta, 2000, p. 873 ; Brunaux, 2004, pp. 84-86 ; Fichtl, 2000, pp. 1-15.
1484. Vendryes, 1997, p. 41 ; Anwyl, 1906a, p. 44.
1485. RIB 1903 was found before 1873. It is now in the Museum at Carlisle.
1486. RIB 1454 was found before 1867. It is now in Chesters Museum.
1487. Olmsted, 1994, pp. 422, 437, 439 ; Delamarre, 2003, p. 255 ; Evans, 1967, pp. 240-241.
1488. Holder, ACS, vol. 2, 1075 ; Evans, 1967, p. 241.
1489. Delamarre, 2003, p. 254 ; Lambert, 1995, p. 93.
1490. Anwyl, 1906a, p. 47 ; Olsmted, 1994, p. 422, 437.
1491. Caesar, I, 23, VII, 55, 63 ; Strabon, IV, 3.
1492. Guillaumet, 1996, pp. 45-52.
1493. Goudineau, Peyre, 1993, pp. 3-14 ; Bulliot, 1899 ; Dechelette, 1904 ; Gruel & Vitali, 1998, pp. 1-140.
1494. Fichtl, 2000, pp. 31-32 ; Kruta, 2000, pp. 468-469.
1495. Kruta, 2000, pp. 468-469 ; Goudineau, Peyre, 1993, pp. 33-80 ; Guillaumet, 1996, pp. 65-144 ; Fichtl, 2000, pp. 74-75 ; Romero, 2006.
1496. Bulliot, 1870, p. 306, 1873, p. 24 ; Goudineau, Peyre, 1993, p. 16.
1497. CIL XIII, 2651.
1498. Bulliot, 1873, pp. 23-24 ; CIL XIII, 2652, 2653.
1499. Ó hÓgáin, 2002, p. 11 ; Delamarre, 2003, p. 69 ; Lambert, 1995, pp. 188-189.
1500. Vendryes, 1905, p. 395 ; Lebel, 1962, pp. 171-172 ; Olmsted, 1994, pp. 420-421 ; Lacroix, 2007, pp. 18, 136
1501. Kruta, 2000, p. 468 ; Goudineau, Peyre, 1993, pp. 19-28 ; Buchsenschutzo, Guillaumet & Ralston, 1999.
1502. Bulliot, in his two articles from 1870-1872, pp. 306-319, 1873-1875, pp. 21-30 tried to demonstrate that Bibracte was actually not the protectress of the oppidum* of the Aedui but a spring-goddess with healing functions, like Sequana, Vesunna or Aventia ; Vendryes, 1997, p. 49 ; RE, vol. 3, pp. 378-379, n° 1038 ; Hatt, MDG 2, p. 219.
1503. Goudineau, Peyre, 1993, p. 15.
1504. Goudineau, Peyre, 1993, p. 89.
1505. Goudineau, Peyre, 1993, pp. 90-94.
1540. CIL XIII, 8 ; CAG, 09, L’Ariège, 1997, p. 155.
1541. Lizop, 1931, pp. 22, 104, 111, 194-196, 304 ; Lizop, 1931a, p. 214 ; CAG, 09, L’Ariège, 1997, p. 155.
1542. Barruol, 1999, pp. 282-283.
1543. RIG I, 153 ; Lambert, 1995, pp. 84-85 ; Lacroix, 2007, pp. 164-165 ; Kruta, 2000, p. 864.
1544. Delamarre, 2003, pp. 218, 269-270: Segomaros is composed of sego-, ‘victory’, ‘strength’ and maros, ‘great’: this name is known from two other inscriptions from Couchey (Côte d’Or), RIG II, 2, 133 and Les Baux-de-Provence (Bouches-du-Rhône) RIG I, 12 ; Delamarre, 2007, p. 199 (Villoneos).
1545. Delamarre, 2003, p. 233-234.
1546. Brunaux, 1986, pp. 28-38 ; Brunaux, 2000, pp. 94-95 ; Brunaux, 2004, pp. 103-124.
1547. Delamarre, 2003, p. 72 ; Lambert, 2006, p. 52.
1548. RDG, pp. 28-29 ; Gourvest, 1954, pp. 257-262 ; Olmsted, 1994, pp. 386-387 ; Green, 1992a, pp. 30-31.
1549. Green, 1992a, pp. 30-31 ; Lambert, 2006, p. 52.
1550. Holder, ACS, vol. 1, p. 386 ; Duval, 1957, p. 87 ; Olmsted, 1994, pp. 357-358 ; Vendryes, 1997, pp. 43-45 ; De Vries, 1963, p. 86 ; Kruta, 2000, p. 462 ; Guyonvarc’h, 1963a, pp. 137-158 ; Le Roux, 1970-1973, p. 226 ; Green, 2004, p. 150 ; Anwyl, 1906b, pp. 37-38 proposes ‘the Most Warlike’.
1551. Lambert, 2006, p. 52.
1552. Brill’s, vol. 8, pp. 939-944 ; Guirand & Schmidt, 2006, pp. 254, 766 ; Grant & Hazel, 2002, p. 222.
1553. Kruta, 2000, p. 462 ; Duval, 1957, p. 87.
1554. Lacroix, 2007, pp. 167-168.
1555. De Bernardo Stempel, 2005, p. 19 ; Delamarre, 2007, p. 39.
1556. ILLPRON, 446, 654.
1557. Ptolemy, II, 3, 2 ; Mackillop, 2004, p. 39 ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 358 ; RE, vol. 1, 1913, p. 95.
1558. Delamarre, 2003, p. 71 ; Lacroix, 2007, p. 167.
1559. CIL XIII, 11224 = AE 1913, 234 ; RE, I, 1913, p. 95.
1560. Solin & Salomies, 1994, pp. 58, 103, 166, 399.
1561. AE 1965, 328 ; RDG, p. 81 ; Bogaers, 1962-1963, pp. 39-86. The Batavi were a Germanic tribe inhabiting the present-day Betuwe district, around Lugdunum Batavorum (Leiden), at the mouth of the Rhine River.
1562. Delamarre, 2007, p.23.
1563. Delamarre, 2003, p. 170 ; Delamarre, 2007, p. 221 ; Spickermann, 2005, p. 140.
1564. CIL XIII, 3970 ; Spickermann, 2005, p. 140 ; Delamarre, 2007, p. 100.
1565. Brunaux, 2000, pp. 211-213.
1566. CIL XIII, 4511.
1567. Raepsaet-Charlier, 1993, pp. 9-11.
1568. CIL XIII, 7667. See Chapter 5 for an analysis of the dedication and of the possible functions fulfilled by Meduna.
1569. Solin & Salomies, 1994, p. 287.
1570. Wightman, 1970, pp. 138, 226.
1571. Olmsted, 1994, pp. 372-373, 412.
1572. Lambert, 1995, p. 45 ; Delamarre, 2003, p. 315 ; Holder, ACS, vol. 3, p. 183 mentions that D’Arbois de Jubainville also derived the name of the goddess Vercana from Irish ferc / ferg ‘rage’, ‘anger’.
1573. Brunaux, 2000, pp. 188-190. See Chapter 5 for more details.
1574. For detailed works about Noreia, see Šašel Kos, 1999, pp. 33-39 ; Kenner, H., ‘Die Götterwelt der Austria Romana’, in ARNW, II.18.2, 1989, n° 48, pp. 876-894 ; Eadem, ‘Dea Noreia’, in Grabmayer, J. & Polte, E. (eds), Die Kultur der Kelten, St. Veiter Historikergespräche, I, 1989, pp. 24-28 ; Scherrer, P., ‘Noreia – Prähistorisch-gallorömische Muttergottheit oder Provinzpersonifikation’, in Hainzmann, Manfred (ed.), Auf den Spuren keltischer Götterverehrung, Akten des 5. F.E.R.C.A.N. – Workshop, Graz 9.-12. Oktober 2003, OAW, Wien, 2007, pp. 207-242.
1575. ILLPRON, 1649 ; Šašel Kos, 1999, p. 37, fig. 10 ; De Bernardo Stempel, 2005, p. 16.
1576. CIL III, 5193.
1577. CIL III, 5123, 5300.
1578. CIL III, 4806, 4807, 4808, 14362. The inscription in which she is mentioned with Isis is CIL III, 4809: Isidi Norei(ae) v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito) pro salute Q. Septuei Clementis con(ductoris) fer(rariarum) N(oricarum) p[—] d[—] et Ti. Cl(audi) Heraclae et Cn. Octa(vi) Secundi pro(curatorum) ferr(ariarum) Q. Septueius Valens proc(urato) ferr(ariarum).
1579. CIL 4810: Noreiae Isidi fecit a Trebonius.
1580. CIL III, 5613 ; CIL VI, 31179.
1581. For Šašel Kos, 1999, p. 33, it is pre-Celtic. For Holder, ACS, vol. 2, pp. 760-761, it is Celtic.
1582. De Bernardo Stempel, 2005, p. 16.
1583. Šašel Kos, 1999, pp. 38-39.
1584. CIL I, 2217 ; Šašel Kos, 1999, p. 34.
1585. Šašel Kos, 1999, p. 35 ; Holder, ACS, vol. 3, p. 138 ; Delamarre, 2007, p. 192: see the proper names Veicu, Veico.
1586. De Bernardo Stempel, 2005, p. 22.
1587. York, 1993, p. 241.
1588. Delamarre, 2003, pp. 269-270 ; Lambert, 1995, pp. 31-32 ; Lajoye, 2006, p. 79.
1589. Lambert, 2006, p. 57.
1590. Olmsted, 1994, p. 428.
1591. CIL XIII, 8846 ; Schmidt, 1987, p. 145 ; Delamarre, 2007, pp. 163, 231 proposes *Seccaniyā (?).
1592. Kruta, 2000, pp. 813-814 ; Ó hÓgáin, 2002, p. 127 ; Barruol, 1999, p. 298.
1593. Ten pounds was the ‘weight of kings’. Since 1875, it has been housed in the Musée du Louvre, Paris, Collection Durand, 1825, Département des Antiquités grecques, étrusques et romaines, Salle des Bronzes, Salle 32, Vitrine E7. CIL XIII, 1641 ; RE, vol.1, p. 115, n° 131 ; Lajoye, 2006, p. 75.
1594. CAG, 42, La Loire, 1997, pp. 96-97, 99-107 ; Kruta, 2000, p. 814.
1595. Roncin, 1976, p. 57 ; Lajoye, 2006, p. 75. The Table de Peutinger is a map of the roads of the Roman Empire. It bears the name of its ancient owner, Conrad Peutinger (1465-1547), who lived in Augsbourg, in Germany. It is a copy, done at the beginning of the Middle Ages, of a map drawn in the 4th c. AD.
1596. AE 1974, 423.
1597. CAG, 45, Le Loiret, 1988, pp. 168-169, 172, 176 ; Roncin, 1976, pp. 50-66, with map ; Gallia, 32, 1974, pp. 304-305.
1598. Roncin, 1976, p. 62.
1599. Roncin, 1976, p. 65.
1600. Lajoye, 2006, pp. 75-78.
1601. Book 18, 2 ; Bostock, 1855.
1602. Book IV, 8, 24 ; Bettenson, 2003, pp. 144, 166.
1603. AE 1906, 33 & 1909, 82 ; ILGN 393 ; Bauquier, 1943, pp. 115-120 and pp. XIV-XV ; Bauquier, 1939, pp. 1-8. For information on this tribe, see Barruol, 1999, pp. 114, 169-170, 172, 225, 233 ; Kruta, 2000, p. 865.
1604. CAG, 30/3, Le Gard, 1999, pp. 686-688.
1605. Solin & Salomies, 1994, pp. 185, 411 ; Delamarre, 2007, pp. 182, 234.
1606. Dondin-Payre, 2001, p. 259.
1607. Delamarre, 2003, pp. 215, 269-270 ; Delamarre, 2007, p. 226.
1608. CAG, 30/3, Le Gard, 1999, pp. 686-688.i
1609. CAG, 30/3, Le Gard, 1999, pp. 686-688, p. 353 ; Schmidt, 1957, p. 266 ; Lacroix, 2007, pp. 44-45. This inscription is neither referenced in RDG, nor in Delamarre, 2007, nor in Olmsted, 1994.
1610. Delamarre, 2007 does not refer to it, but it is based on the Celtic root viro– ‘man’ or ‘true’, ‘fair’, cf. Delamarre, 2007, p. 236.
1611. Bauquier, 1939, pp. 1-4 ; Lacroix, 2007, p. 45.
1612. CIL XIII, 2846: deo Segomoni ; CIL V, 7868: [S]egomoni Cuntino ; Delamarre, 2007, p. 218 ; Delamarre, 2003, p. 132 refers to the toponym* Cuntinus vicus ‘the Village-of-the-Dog or Wolf’, the present-day Contes in Alpes-Maritimes ; Lambert, 2006, p. 52 ; Olmsted, 1994, pp. 327, 338.
1613. CIL XIII, 5340: Marti Segomoni ; AE 1994, 1224: [M]arti Segomoni ; CIL XIII, 1675: [Ma]rti Segomoni ; AE 1999, 1067: et Ma]rti Segomoni ; CIL XIII, 2532.
1614. Lambert, 2006, p. 52.
1615. Evans, 1967, pp. 156-158 ; Delamarre, 2003, pp. 83-84 ; Delamarre, 2007, p. 214.
1616. F 82, 83 ; AE 1982, 667.
1617. CIL XIII, 11975 ; F. 82, 83.
1618. Raepsaet-Charlier, 1993, pp. 9-11.
1619. AE 1922, 116 ; ILTG 141 ; RG 6932.
1620. Jullian, 1887, vol. 1, pp. 59-66, n°20: Tutelae Aug(ustae) C(aius) Octavius Vitalis ex voto posuit. L(ocus) d(atus) ex d(ecreto) d(ecurionum). Dedic(atum) decimum k(alendas) Juliano iterum et Crispino co(n)s(ulibus) ; n°20bis, pp. 66-76: Tutelae Aug. Lascivos Cani L. ex voto L. D. EX. D. D.
1621. Daremberg & Saglio, pp. 553-554 ; Paulys,vol. 7.A.2, pp. 1497-1607 ; Jullian, 1887, vol. 1, pp. 61-66.
1622. CIL XIII, 8217 ; AE 1969/70, 440.
1623. Delamarre, 2007, p. 89.
1624. CIL XIII, 3460 ; CAG, 02, L’Aisne, 2003, p. 447. It was discovered in Avenue Voltaire, Soisson.
1625. CIL XIII, 4709 ; RG 4811 ; Hatt, MDG 2, p. 134 ; RDG, p. 32 ; Toussaint, 1948a, p. 31.
1626. RG 4811 ; Hatt, MDG 2, p. 134.
1627. Rome (Italy): CIL VI, 46 ; Solin (Hungary): CIL III, 8671 ; Wolberg (Belgium): AE 1989, 537 ; Arlon (Belgica): CIL XIII, 3980 ; Kruishoutem (Belgica): AE 1992, 1244 ; Bar Hill (GB): RIB 2166 ; Mainz (Germany): CIL XIII, 11818 ; Rindern (Germany): CIL XIII, 8701 ; Reims (France): AE 1935, 64 ; Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (France): IAG 170. See RDG, p. 32 ; Delamarre, 2007, p. 55 ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 334.
1628. Delamarre, 2003, pp. 101, 258, 260-261. Be careful with Olmsted, 1994, p. 335, for his references and sources are inaccurate. Camulos can also mean ‘servant’, especially when it is a proper name engraved on a funerary inscription, see Lambert, 1995, p. 97. As for Spickermann, 2005, p. 139, he suggests for Mars Camulus, ‘the one who brings care’.
1629. AE 1993, 1287 ; Macalister, 1945, 455 (Ogam) ; CIL XIII, 11216.
1630. Fröhner, 1865, pp. 332-334.
1631. Caesar, De Bello Gallico, II, 3, 12 & VIII, 6. For details on the Suessiones, see Kruta, 2000, pp. 828-829.
1632. CIL XII, 4225.
1633. For information on this tribe, see Barruol, 1999, pp. 114, 169-170, 172, 225, 233 ; Kruta, 2000, p. 865.
1634. RDG, p. 67 ; RG 539, p. 348 refers to Hirschfeld, the first specialist to have proposed [T]ricoria ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 417 ; Vendryes, 1997, p. 41 ; Barruol, 1999, pp. 325-330.
1635. Delamarre, 2003, pp. 125-126, 301-302: the root tri– ‘three’ is also found in the name of the tribe of the Tricasses, i.e. ‘the ones who have three plaits’, who were implanted around the today city of Troyes in Gallo-Roman times. See Fichtl, 2004, pp. 59-60.
1636. Delamarre, 2003, pp. 125-126 ; Kruta, 2000, pp. 558, 776 ; Pelletier, 2004, p. 206
1637. Antonsen, 1975, p. 35.
1638. RG 539.
1639. Delamarre, 2007, p. 153.
1640. RE, 1878-1883, p. 330, n°364.
1641. Holder, ACS, vol. 2, p. 1183 proposes Ric-oria but does not suggest an etymology* ; Delamarre, 2003, pp. 261-262, 125-126.
1642. Delamarre, 2007, pp. 153, 230.
1643. Vaillat, 1932, p. 51.
1649. Scáthach and Aífe are mentioned in Van Hamel, 1933, pp. 47-60.
1650. Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 140-141 ; Mackillop, 2004, pp. 7, 181-182, 245, 378-379.
1651. Mackillop, 2004, pp. 102-103.
1652. RIB 2066.