The Coligny Calendar

1. Basics:

The Coligny calendar was unearthed in 1897 at Coligny, in France.  It consists of 16 columns inscribed on a sheet of bronze.  At the time of its discovery, it was in fragments.  Much of it is missing.  It is the longest single text in the Gaulish language.1 As we will see, the calendar is a thorough application of the Samos and Giamos principles applied to time.

The calendar consists of a cycle of five years, consisting of 62 months, 60 regular months and two intercalary months.  The intercalary months come at the beginning and the middle of the five year cycle, dividing it into two halves. Given the organization of the rest of the calendar, this probably means that the first half of the cycle was the dark half and the second the light half.2

2. The Year:

The year is divided into two halves, the first beginning with the month of Samonios, the second with the month of Giamonios. Probably, the first half of the year is the dark half, and the second of the light half, but there is some controversy about this.  The regular months, in order, are named:

  1. Samonios                        MAT
  2. Dumannios                     ANM
  3. Riuros                             MAT
  4. Anagantios                     ANM
  5. Ogron                              MAT
  6. Cutios                              MAT
  7. Giamonios                      ANM
  8. Simiuisonnios                MAT
  9. Equos                              ANM
  10. Elembiuos                      ANM
  11. Edrinios                          MAT
  12. Cantlos                           ANM

The intercalary month is termed Ciallos, and is inserted into the first year of the 5 year cycle before Samonios and into the third year of the cycle before Giamonios. There is a great deal of controversy among scholars as to the meanings of the names of the months, so I have not provided translations here.3

3. The Month:

Months come in two types, of 30 and 29 days respectively.  Months of 30 days are termed MAT on the calendar, and those of 29 days are termed ANM.  MAT is probably an abbreviation for the Gaulish word matti, meaning “good”, while ANM is an abbreviation for anmatti, meaning “not good”.  Thus, months themselves have good and ill significance.  Months are further divided into two halves, the first of 15 days, the second of 14 or 15 days depending on the month.  These are clearly light and dark halves, but it is unclear which is which.  The writings of the Roman historian and scholar Pliny suggest that the first half is the light half, and therefore the waxing moon, but some scholars do not accept this.  The change from one half of the month to another is marked by the word ATENOUX, which might be translated either as “renewal” or as “the returning night”.4

4. The Day:

Days were also marked with a variety of notations.  Most of these deal with the various counting schemes that keep the calendar on track with the lunar and solar cycles and are not of interest to us here.  Three of them do concern us.  Some days are marked with MD and others with AMB.  MD seems to many scholars to stand for matti dîuos, “good day”, 5 meaning a day of good omen.  AMB would appear, to most scholars, to stand for anmattis dîuos, “not-good day”.6  In addition to the above two notations, many days are marked with IVOS.  According to Olmsted, this means “festival”, and marks out holidays.  Luckily for us, IVOS days occur in regular clusters through the year.  Notably, Olmstead states that clusters occur from two to four days before and after the beginning of Samonios,Dumannios, Anagantios, Giamonios, and Elembiuos. Clusters also occur three to four days before and after the ATENOUX of Riuros, on the 9th of Simiuisonnios, and on the first three days and the 25th of Edrinios.7 It should be noted that days start at sunset.

5. Controversies:

There are many controversies surrounding the Coligny Calendar.  The most important is that scholars are not sure when the year begins.  We know that Samonios is the first month, but when is that?  There are three main schools of thought:

  • a. Some scholars, taking their cue from the Irish Samhain, place the beginning of Samonios around the beginning of November.  This would make the first half of the year the dark half, equating to winter.  This is supported by a curious fact: one of the months of the Coligny Calendar was named Ogronios. In several Greek calendars of this period there is a month named Agrionios located in February/March.  Greek culture was very prestigious to the pre-Roman-Conquest Gauls.  They used the Greek alphabet for many inscriptions, for example, and borrowed the Greek symposion or ritual drinking party into their own aristocratic feasting customs and, to some extent, ritual observance.  If Ogronios is a case of cultural borrowing, then it stands to reason that the year began in November, exactly as it did in Ireland.
  • b. Others are convinced that the name Samonios refers to summer time, and would prefer to start the calendar at the summer solstice.  This would again make the first half of the year the dark half, but it would equate to the waning sun and not the winter at all.  The names for the month of June in modern Welsh and Breton, which are derived from mediosaminos, “midsummer”, might suggest this, but there is absolutely no precedent in modern Celtic folklore for starting the year in summer.
  • c. Some place Samonios at or around the Winter Solstice, and assume the calendar drifted relative to the solar year in order to arrive at the placement of the Irish Samhain.  This is supported by the placement of the Irish cross-quarter holidays which do not equate to significant astronomical events.  Olmsted supports this view, but bases his opinion on an elaborate history of the calendar that is not supported by other scholars.8

There is also controversy over the beginning of the month.  The essential question is, did the month start on the new moon or the full moon?  Related is the question, which half is the light half?  Here there are two schools of thought:

  1. The moon started on the new moon, and ATENOUX marks the full moon.  This generally means that the first half of the month was the light half, equivalent to the waxing moon, and the second the dark half, equivalent to the waning moon.  Adherents of this theory generally translate ATENOUX by something like “the returning night”.
  2. The moon started on the full moon, and ATENOUX marks the new moon.  In this case, the first half of the month is the dark half, equivalent to the waning moon, and the second is the light half, equivalent to the waxing moon.  Adherents of this theory generally translate ATENOUX as something close to “renewal”.

The cases for these various schools of thought are generally very closely matched.  Nevertheless, we have to make choices in order to arrive at a working calendar.  I have made the following tentative choices to develop the working Gaulish calendar I will be presenting in the next column:

  1. We will start the year in November.  The evidence of the Greek month name and of the year of the modern Celtic peoples convince me that this option has slightly more going for it than the others.
  2. We will start the month at the new moon.  This is almost a purely arbitrary choice.  The two options here are almost exactly evenly matched.  But this makes the most intuitive sense to me, and so, given that we must make a choice, it is the choice we will make.

6. Additional Calendric Terminology:

Here are a grab bag of terms and abbreviations, which you, dear reader, will need to read the upcoming calendar. Some are modern reconstructions, a few are from the text of the calendar itself.

BG: Blêdani Galation, “Year of the Galatîs”, a more or less arbitrary era of my own creation, working backward from the date of Pliny, based on Garret Olmsted’s calculation that the Celtic calendar must have begun some 1000 years before Pliny observed it, and also taking into account the 25 year cycle of the calendar itself.9 The year 3034 BG begins in mid-November, 2015 CE.

Cemenolugrâ: Crescent, waxing moon, light half of month, derived from Welsh cefnlloer by an internet scholar named Bhrgowidon, working in the Celticaconlang Yahoo group.10

Senolugrâ: Waning moon, literally, “old moon”, a term of my own creation, from senos – “old”
and lugrâ – “moon”.11

IVOS: Festival.12

MD: matti dîuos, “good day”,13

AMB: anmatti dîuos, “not-good day”.14

Note that days are written in the format (date x of-Cemenolugrâ or of-Senolugrâ of month year), using Gaulish genitives. For both Cemenolugrâ and Senolugrâ, the genitive is –âs. For all months, the genitive is –i. Thus, the date January 5, 2016 would be written 10 Senolugrâs Dumanni, 3034, except after sunset, when it would be 11 Senolugrâs Dumanni, 3034.

The Nature of the Gods (V): Number, Figure, Time

The set of the Gods is not formed by the class characteristic ‘God’, but by that of uniqueness, that is, by being units or henads, while the character of ‘godhood’ comes from the position of this set, the set of absolutely unique individuals, relative to all that is. The character of godhood in the henadic manifold thus expresses in the purest form Proclus’ maxim (discussed here) that ‘Gods’ are whatever things, in a given ontology, are “first according to nature”.1

In connection with the present discussion, I’d like to particularly note the deployment here of the notion of ‘firstness’, inasmuch as it invokes the distinction between ordinal and cardinal numbers. Ordinal numbers order things in a series—first, second, third—whereas cardinal numbers state how many of a thing there are—one, two, three. With respect to the term arithmos, ‘number’ in Greek, Jacob Klein has noted that in its basic sense arithmos “never means anything other than a definite number of definite objects”.2 The abstract or absolute sense of number seems to emerge from this concrete usage in a fashion not too far off from Gottlob Frege’s logical derivation of number from the relation of equinumerosity between sets. Hence, for example, there are three shotglasses on the table, and three tumblers of icewater, with the number three arising as something in itself from the capacity to say, e.g., “For every shotglass on the table there is a tumbler of icewater,” and the like, extending into the countability of sets themselves, so that there is one bottle of whiskey on the table corresponding to the one set of three shotglasses, and so forth.

Frege’s foundation of arithmetic on substantial set characters in this fashion led notoriously to a crisis in the very project of logicizing arithmetic due to the possibility, in dealing with sets and their memberships (or ‘extensions’), of generating sets based on paradoxical characters such as ‘The barber who shaves everyone in town who does not shave himself’. A member of such a set is a member precisely by not belonging to it. Paradoxes such as this were known to the ancients, the classical form arising from a remark attributed to Epimenides of Knossos (in Crete), to the effect that ‘All Cretans are liars’, which must be false in order to be true. And yet, as I have said, I see Frege’s procedure for deriving number from the power of forming sets of objects with some common character (being a shotglass on the table, being a tumbler of icewater on the table) as embodying a genuine insight.

The henadic manifold is the set of absolutely unique individuals, that is, the set of individuals who do not, in the ultimate sense, share any character in common. This arises from the integrity of henadic individuals, each of whom possess all her traits in an irreducibly peculiar fashion, so that while we may loosely speak of all sorts of common traits among Gods, in the strict sense no God has these traits in precisely the same manner as any other. More strongly, because of the ontological primacy of henadic unity over any other trait as such, each trait belonging to a God is, in the primary sense, not the same trait as the similar trait of any other God, not because the trait possesses some distinguishing qualitative character (though this will be the case as well), but simply insofar as it is Hers.

This property of the henadic manifold bears a clear formal resemblance to the paradoxical sets generated by the Barber or the Liar, but in the context of Platonic thought this is, as the saying goes, ‘not a bug, but a feature’. For the existence of such a set of ultimate units—whatever else we thought about the nature of those units—forms the precondition for reality as such, so that there is something, and hence something countable, rather than nothing at all. Furthermore, the unique individuals must be the first units counted, as it were, since any other set depends upon characteristics of greater semantic complexity.

In this fashion we see how cardinal number is grounded in the henadic manifold. What about ordinal number? (I am not concerned here with the question of whether cardinal or ordinal numbers are ontologically primary.) Here I believe we can usefully turn again to Damascius’ twin determinations of the henad as ‘One-all’ and ‘All-one’. We have seen in previous installments of this essay that these determinations encompass each henad’s potential to be either at the ‘center’ or ‘periphery’ of the henadic manifold; and from this I believe that we can establish ordinal number. Ordinal number is based upon the primary relationship of ‘succession’ or, so to speak, ‘nextness’. Now, it can be argued either that any unit counted as ‘next’ after another is at the periphery of the former, or vice versa, and hence that this relation, however construed, is at any rate one of the ways of a unit’s being peripheral to another.

A number of other relationships can presumably be derived from the ‘One-all’ and ‘All-one’ dimension of the henad, including, as suggested in a previous installment, the proto-temporal relationship of ‘now’ and ‘then’, as well as the proto-spatial relationship of ‘here’ and ‘there’; and obviously any hierarchical relationship can be reduced to these basic determinations of henadic existence as well. The categories of ‘firstness’, ‘secondness’ and ‘thirdness’ propounded by Charles Sanders Peirce as fundamental modes of being can also be derived from these henadic properties as (1) immediacy, (2) retention or primary association, and (3) mediation of experience respectively.

Traditionally, however, for Platonists the generation of figure is prior, in any event, to that of temporality, and perhaps to spatiality as constituted by ‘here’ and ‘there’.3 The primary henadic manifold cannot be determined as to number beyond the determination that its number is not infinite.4 Our remarks earlier about the nature of numerability show why: since there is no characteristic beyond ultimate uniqueness that defines membership in the henadic manifold, this set cannot be counted in advance, so to speak, of its constitution. This is the essential facticity of the henadic manifold: there are as many Gods as there turn out to be, though, in a transcendental move, Platonists assert that there cannot be fewer Gods than there are distinct processions of beings. This follows from the necessity of the existence of countable units prior to any counting of them, insofar as the latter involves forming sets based on characteristics of the units. (We may treat processions for our present purposes as categories in a kind of successor relation to one another.)

Figures may thus be understood as diagrams of the basic relations and as the primary ontic sets (i.e., the simplest sets after the henadic manifold itself). The line, hence, is the diagram of the relationship between two units in general and hence of the number two, the triangle the diagram of the relationship between three units in general, and so forth. In this sense, one may say that the ontologically primary figure of any type is the theophanic presentation of a relationship between the requisite number of henads; and I have argued elsewhere that Giordano Bruno, in his own speculative mathematics, presented just such a theory by means of complex diagrams each line of which embodied some mythic relationship between Gods.5 Bruno’s diagrams, insofar as they incorporate narrative, express the fullest procession of figure, which must includes projecting the figure in time, ‘drawing’ it, so to speak, in some given order so that one line succeeds another; and this is one way of stating the necessity of mythic narrative with respect to the henadic manifold.

The Nature of the Gods (IV): The Two Kinds of Group

If the form of multiplicity exhibited by the henads, namely, a multiplicity all of the members of which are in each one, is the primary and ultimate kind, then whatever other kinds of multiple there are must be derivable from it in their form. Two elementary kinds of multiplicity are known as homoiomerous (or ‘homoeomerous’) and anhomoiomerous (or ‘anomoeomerous’). (It is a problem to ascertain whether this is the only exhaustive division.)

Homoiomerous multiplicity is made up of parts that are alike (homoios), at least for structural purposes. An example of such a multiplicity is a body of water, insofar as we take it just as a collection of water molecules, or a flock of geese, insofar as we take it purely as a collection of individual geese. Anhomoiomerous multiplicity is made up of parts that are structurally unlike (anhomoios), and by virtue of this may be regarded as a structured multiplicity. An example of anhomoiomerous multiplicity is a face, insofar as we take it as made up of two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth, or a flock of geese, insofar as we take it as having the sort of structure we see when geese fly in formation.

The fact that the same multiplicity can be treated, now as homoiomerous, now as anhomoiomerous, indicates that these forms of multiplicity have a common ground, and I have argued that this common ground is the ultimate, all-in-each or polycentric form of multiplicity exhibited by henads. The emergence of homoiomerous and anhomoiomerous forms of multiplicity must therefore be traceable to differences internal to henadic individuals.

Stepping back from this technical analysis, we do see that divine organizations exhibit both of these structural potentials, but always interwoven with one another. Thus, a pantheon is a group of Gods, and in this respect homoiomerous, but Gods within a pantheon also perform differentiated functions, rendering the group anhomoiomerous. We cannot eliminate conceptually either of these aspects of divine organization, any more than we can eliminate one of these modes of multiplicity generally.

What is it in the nature of the ultimate units that makes it an ineliminable potential for such units to form both kinds of group, and furthermore in such fashion that any group, generally speaking, can always be viewed in either of these respects? That is, we can expect that a sufficiently close investigation will find structures discernible in the body of water such that it is not characterizable merely as molecules of water, but as molecules of water in this or that state, e.g., of motion, and differentiable on account of this; and we can expect that sufficiently close examination of a hierarchically structured social organization will also find moments expressing equality among citizens.

We can see this potential for these two different kinds of multiplicity in those two fundamental characteristics of the ultimate units that were discussed in part II of the present essay, and which were discussed by Platonists under various terms: Limit and Unlimited, Monad and Dyad, Existence and Power(s), among others, but which Damascius most helpfully treated as grounded in the basic character of the ultimate, polycentric manifold. Since all of the units of this manifold are in each one, each one has the character of being One-all and of being All-one. That is, each one is all the others, and all the others are it. Insofar as these conditions are not simply equivalent, but also distinct, depending upon whether we take a given unit now as the center, and hence as one-all, now on the periphery, and so all-one, they form the potential for the two kinds of groups discussed in the present essay, and with just the complex reciprocity we have already observed.

Insofar as each is ‘one-all’, henads form a homoiomerous multiplicity of units each of whom is the center. But since each can only be the center one at a time, each is also peripheral, or ‘all-one’. (We see at this point the potential for grounding temporality in the basic conditions of henadic existence, but will not pursue it at present.) But there is no single way of being peripheral, because the peripheries of different centers are different, even if it is a question of the same peripheral point, insofar as it is taken as the periphery now of this, now of that center. Each henad is also the center in a peculiar fashion, but this is given by the positivity of henadic individuality, not by the nature of centrality, because a center is not simultaneously many centers in the way that a periphery is simultaneously many peripheries. (Think of the difference between the many circles with a common point on their circumferences, and the many concentric circles around a single center.) We may say, in fact, that the all-one is the principle of differentiating centers according to their peripheries, and that through this principle, the henads form anhomoiomerous multiplicities of diverse kinds.

Centrality and periphery thus interpenetrate one another in a complex fashion. The nature of being-a-center is differentiated by the peripheries involved, and the nature of being-peripheral by the peculiar centers implied. It may be that units can be exhaustively determined by their relations, that is, from their periphery, but can they be given by their relations, however many or however much of their properties are explicable through these relations? For even a center, as an ideal, is posited through the circumference. In this fashion, we can imagine a circle whose circumference is everywhere, and its center nowhere. This is, indeed, what the intellect demands. But if every point is merely peripheral, then it is also fixed and arbitrarily determined to its position (or trajectory, velocity, et al.). The possibility of centering, of selfhood, can neither be eliminated from the system, nor restricted to a single one, because that single possible center could only be that point vanishing for itself, determined from and wholly dependent upon the points actually existing.

Iextâ – Language and Identity

The Gaulish word Iextâ apparently meant “language”.1 However it additionally meant rather more than that, for the cognates in modern Celtic languages include expanded meanings. The Goidelic, and later Irish icht meant “people” or “tribe”, without any linguistic connotation, while the Middle Welsh ieith, and later iaith, meant “language”, “nation” and “race”.2 We can assume, then, that the earlier Common Celtic and Gaulish word likely carried a similar connotation. Iextâ is the Gaulish word for “language”, “nation”, or “people”.

We can see immediately, then, that that Gaulish concept of nationhood was similar to some modern ideas, while very different to others. In particular, the concept of a nation as a community sharing a common blood-descent was at the very least very subordinate, and perhaps outright nonexistent. The nation was a linguistic community, a people sharing a common speech, and the embedded concepts, ways of thought, customs, and assumptions that go with it. This is seen in the process of Romanization. The abandonment of Gaulish for Latin was the signal of a profound shift, from a Gaulish to a provincial Roman identity.3

This point of view has a bit in common with old, Romantic notions of nationalism from the early 19th century, the nationalism of, say, the early Czech revivalists. It has much in common with modern Celtic nationalism, or at least those parts of it for which the preservation of the modern Celtic languages are important. It has very little in common with the later blood-based ethnic nationalisms that tore Europe apart in world wars and later Balkan conflicts, still less with the so-called “scientific” racisms that still play so ghastly a role in our world. It differs from all modern nationalisms that Iextâ in no way implies the necessity or even desirability of unification in a single state. Indeed, all of Gaulish, indeed Celtic, history argues against such a concept being present.

Given that language was central to the ancient Gaulish identity, the revival of the Gaulish language is central to the process of reviving Gaulish Polytheism. To be sure, Gaulish will never again be a first language, never again what it once was. But to preserve it, at least as a liturgical language and a language of study, is essential. By learning about the Gaulish language, we can better understand how our Ancestors (and if you study Gaulish, They do indeed become your Ancestors, regardless of your ethnic origin) thought. By learning Gaulish vocabulary, we can understand how They understood the world, and the abstract concepts that informed Their interactions with it. By studying Gaulish, we can become more Gaulish and grow closer to the Gods and Ancestors themselves.

Iextâ Galatacâ Senâ – The Ancient Gaulish Language:

What, then, can we say about Ancient Gaulish? What do we know about it? As I wrote in an earlier column, it is an Indo-European language, belonging to the Celtic branch, and the Continental Celtic group. It was once spoken across a wide swath of Europe. It is important to note that it is very, very different from most modern Celtic languages. Yes, the vocabularies share common roots, and a linguist can tell they’re related, but Gaulish is far more archaic than any modern Celtic language. It differs even from medieval Celtic tongues in grammar and syntax to the point that they share almost nothing. Its grammar is in many ways closer to other ancient languages like Latin than to modern Irish or Welsh. It shares much with Proto-Indo-European, the common ancestor of all Indo-European languages, though it is simpler, and to my ear, more beautiful.

The consonants of spoken Gaulish are very similar to those of other ancient languages, and differ only in a few ways from, say, Latin. The letters b, d, f (rare and late), k, l, m, p, t, and z (very rare) are much as they are in English. Some modern versions of Gaulish use the letters y and w, with the same sounds as in English. The letters c and g are always hard, and g is a bit more guttural than in English speech, especially when it is between two vowels. The letter n is normally as it is in English, but sometimes may be slightly nasalized at the end of words, much as in French, but less so. The letter v in ancient inscriptions is pronounced as it is in Latin, which is to say, like a w. The letter x is like a very guttural x when at the end of words, and like the German “ch” when in the middle. The letter h is always silent. The letter j always has a y sound, and only is used in some modern revivals. The letter q (qu) is used much as in English, a bit more guttural, but it is very rare, surviving only in certain archaic words and local dialects. The letter r may have had a liquid sound, as it does in English, or a trilled one, as in modern Spanish. Scholars are still in disagreement, there. The letter s is usually much as in English, but perhaps a bit more sibilant. The “tau Galllicum” is a sound about which scholars are still in disagreement, and which probably does not occur in modern English. It is represented sometimes by the letter s, sometimes by the letter t, sometimes by “st or “ts”, or đ, or Đ, or đđ, or ĐĐ. It could have been a “st” sound, or a “ts” sound, or possibly a “th” sound, either voiced or unvoiced, or perhaps something similar to all of these. My own suspicions are that it was a “ts”, but I have no more reason to suppose this than anyone else, and I sometimes wonder if it was a voiced “th”, and ancestral to the very similar sound in Welsh.

The vowels of Gaulish are very different from those of English, being very archaic, indeed. All Gaulish vowels came in long and short pronunciations, which were very different from one another. For our purposes here, long vowels will be represented like this: â = long a, but a = short a. Other scholars and versions of Gaulish may show this differently. To muddy the waters a bit, long and short vowels merged, and acquired more or less modern European sounds after about 150 CE. This was part of the development of Late Gaulish, as the language began dying. The letter a, then was very short, being pronounced a bit like the u in “but”. The letter â was long, sounding like the a in “father”. The letter e was pronounced like the e in “pen”. But ê was pronounced like the a in “late”. The letter i was pronounced like the i in “bin”. The letter î was pronounced like the letters “ee” in “seen”. The letter o was pronounced like an “aw” sound, like the o in “hog”. But ô was pronounced like the o in “hope”. The letter u was pronounced like the letter u in “put”, or else, at the beginning of words, had a w sound. The letter û was pronounced like the German ü or the French “eu”. It is not a sound that exists in English.

Accent in Gaulish is normally on the second syllable, except in one or two syllable words, when it is on the first syllable. This is normally pretty straightforward, except when a word ends with a long vowel. This becomes hard for English-speakers when a word ends with a long vowel, because the natural tendency in English is to accent long vowels. Thus Eponâ is pronounced e-PAWN-aah, which is often hard for an English-speaker to bend their tongue around.

Nouns in Gaulish have two numbers, singular and plural, though some modern scholars think Early Gaulish may have had a dual number as well, for talking about “two and only two” of something. Even if it did have a dual, it passed out of use pretty early on. Gaulish nouns have three genders – masculine, feminine, and neuter. As in other languages with grammatical gender, this should not be confused with biological gender. Iextâ, for example, is a feminine noun, even though languages don’t have genitals nor biological gender in any sense. Gaulish nouns had eight cases – nominative, vocative, accusative, genitive, dative, ablative, instrumental, and locative. Nominative case is used for the subject of a sentence, something which does. Vocative case is used when addressing someone or something. Accusative case is used for something that is the object of a sentence, something which is done to. Genitive is used to show possession. Dative is used to show an indirect object, to show that something is being given, taken, or what have some you to someone or something else. Ablative is used to say from something or off something. Instrumental is used to say by something or by means of something. And locative is used to say at something. In addition to three genders, Gaulish had a variety of stems or declensions, depending on the final suffix in the nominative case. This, masculine nouns would be divided into o-stems, u-stems, guttural stems, and so on, depending on whether the word ended in –os, us, -îx, or what have you. There are many of these for each gender, too many to list here.

Verbs in Gaulish have two flexions, absolute and conjunct. Absolute flexion is used when a verb is used normally to describe the actions of a noun. Conjunct flexion is used when a verb is fixed to a pronoun. More on this later. Verbs have two voices – active and passive. Active talks about what you do. Passive talks about what is done to you. Gaulish verbs have two moods – indicative and subjunctive. Indicative mood talks about what is, subjunctive about what might be. Like nouns, Gaulish verbs have two numbers, singular and plural. There are three persons – first (I do), second (you do), and third (he, she, it does). Enough of the knowledge of Gaulish has been lost that the tenses are unclear. But there are at least present, preterite (for talking about the past), and future. There is probably no infinitive, the verb form meaning “to do” something, but instead the place of the infinitive is taken by verbal nouns, which work similarly to words like “seeing” or “knowing” in English. There are two primary groups of verbs – strong verbs, which are irregular in their endings, and weak verbs, which are irregular. There are also numerous conjugation groups of verbs, each of which is slightly different.
Adjectives and adverbs in Gaulish are much like nouns as to number, gender. case, and so on. They are more flexible, however, in that adjectives have multiple genders, and must agree with the noun they modify. So, dîos dâgos, “good day”, but noxtion dâgon, “good night”. During the Roman period, this began to break down, however, so that we have spindle whorl inscription geneta imi daga uimpi “I am a good and pretty girl”. Note that uimpi, “pretty” does not agree with geneta, “girl”, even though it modifies it. Note also that adjectives and adverbs always follow the noun or verb they modify, the opposite order from English.

Pronouns in Gaulish are very similar in gender, case, and number to nouns. As in other languages, they are a bit simpler. One feature is worthy of note. Gaulish pronouns can attach themselves to verbs, much like word-endings, which allows Gaulish to form simple sentences with a single word. So, dessiû means “I prepare”. Mi is the pronoun for “I”. Is is the pronoun for “he” or “him”. Dessiûmiis means “I prepare him”. The conjunct flexion comes into play because a lot of Gaulish verbs have the vowel i ending them in the absolute flexion. This is dropped when the pronoun is attached. So, dessiesi, “you prepare”, tu, “you”, is, “him”. But dessiestuis, “you prepare him”.

Prepositions, conjugations, and so on are also in Gaulish, small words, but very important. A lot of them can double as prefixes, particularly in names. Some of them change the case of the words they modify to create subtle meanings. So, in tegê, “in the house”, but in tegon, “into the house”; uer tegê, “over the house”, but uer tegon, “upon the house”.

Gaulish syntax is relatively simple to speakers of English, but very different from that of modern Celtic languages. Gaulish syntax is a fairly straightforward subject-verb-object system, much like English or French. Thus, loucetos kelleti tegon, “lightning strikes the house”. It only becomes complicated when a pronoun enters the picture, kelletis tegon, “he (lightning) strikes the house”. Note that loucetos, “lightning”, is a masculine noun, and so uses the male pronoun. This change in syntax when a pronoun is attacked to the verb is the origin of the modern Celtic verb-subject-object syntax which seems so strange to speakers of most other modern European languages.

Iextâ Galatacâ Ategnatâ – The Gaulish Language Reborn:

Given the importance of language to Celtic identity in general, and to Gaulish identity in particular, it should come as no surprise that even the first attempts to revive Gaulish Polytheism were accompanied by attempts to revive the Gaulish language. Indeed, there have been several attempts to revive Gaulish, which have given rise to several modern dialects, which differ from one another in various ways. Some of these are more scholarly than others, some based on better research, and various of them have various amounts of influence, but all are labors of love.

The first attempts to revive Gaulish were made by Breton and then French Druid orders in the 1930s. This attempt was made using the scholarship available at the time, but was used by many druides for liturgical, artistic, magical, and theological purposes. Some of these early dialects are still in use today in France and Brittany by druides today.

The next attempt to revive Gaulish was the Labarion dialect, the name of which meant “Talk”, created by a non-religious Spanish conlanger named Alounis in about 2001. Labarion has proved very influential, and most modern dialects that are not offshoots of the French Druidic dialects are influenced by it. It is now hard to find and learn on the web, but files of Labarion grammar, vocabulary, and lessons can be found in the Gaulish Polytheism Community on Facebook, in the Facebook group Toutâ Galation, and in the Yahoogroup Atedugyon Yextes Keltikyas.

At about the same time that Labarion was revived, an internet scholar named Vellaunos created the Danuviacon dialect. Although influenced by Labarion, it was meant to be a simulation of an earlier dialect spoken by Danubian Celts. To my knowledge, it has vanished from the internet, though I have hard copies of its grammar.

In about 2006 or so, a Belgian scholar named Olivier Piqueron created a dialect named Yextis Keltikâ. It was very similar to Labarion in most respects, but with a more developed, complex grammar. He wrote a 60-page book on it, in French, which I have in hard copy and which I believe is still available on Atedugyon Yextes Keltikyas.

The Brazilian Druid Bellouesus Isarnos has also created a very well developed dialect of Gaulish called Senobrixtâ, meaning “Ancient Magic”. Senobrixtâ is the product of many, many years of development. I am frankly unsure if it is an offshoot from Labarion, or if Bellouesus developed it wholly on his own. A good deal of literature, poetry and prose, in it can be found on Bellouesus’ blog, Bellodunon, mostly in Portuguese.

The most recent, most unusual, and most developed modern dialect of Gaulish is Modern Gaulish, or Galáthach hAthevíu. The creator of this dialect, Australian scholar Steve Hansen, wondered what Gaulish would have looked like had it survived to the present day without interruption. In consequence, he took a strong Gaulish vocabulary and grammar, and put it through the phonetic and grammatical changes that it would likely have experienced had it taken the same course of evolution as the modern Celtic languages. The result is something closer to a modern Celtic language than to Ancient Gaulish, but still clearly descended from it, and hauntingly beautiful. Modern Gaulish has far more speakers than any other dialect, with some approaching fluency. Excellent instruction materials can be found at the Modern Gaulish website. There is also a Facebook group, and a dictionary found here, and a series of Youtube videos with songs in the language and pronunciation.

Steve and Bellouesus have published a book of poetry and prose in Senobrixtâ and Modern Gaulish entitled Anthologia Gallica, which amounts to the beginning of a new Gaulish literature. This excellent work can be found here.

Wissencîmâ Galatakin – Learning Gaulish:

There are numerous resources that can be used to help learn various forms of Gaulish. They don’t always agree, so a certain level of discernment and critical thinking is essential. The most important book on what can reliably be known about Ancient Gaulish is Pierre-Yves Lambert’s La Langue Gauloise. It includes a complete list of inscriptions, with complete texts of each, and all that is currently really known about the grammar. It can be obtained here, or here, for the older edition. There is another book by the same title by Georges Dottin. I have not read it, but I hear good things about it. Two essential dictionaries include Xavier Delmarre’s Dictionnaire de la Langue Gauloise, and Ranko Matasovic’s Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic. Matasovic’s work, it should be noted, deals with Proto-Celtic rather than the later Gaulish, but can still serve well for hard-to-find words.

Online resources to learn Gaulish include the Yahoogroup Atedugyon Yexyes Keltikyas, which I have already mentioned, the groups Gaulish Polytheism Community and Toutâ Galation on Facebook, a Facebook group called Iexti Toutanon, which doesn’t see a lot of activity, and the aforementioned Modern Gaulish websites.

What Deadpool Can Teach Us About Hero Cultus

The title of the present article, I suspect, might cause a lot of people to have reactions that may not be remotely measured in relation to what I am going to discuss subsequently. If you are such a person, I’d recommend reading the entire piece before you decide to get upset, and certainly before you decide to comment.

So, perhaps I should just get a few caveats and concerns out of the way before proceeding to my main argument. I am not by any means suggesting that Deadpool is a hero on the cultic level who is equivalent to Achilleus, Herakles, or any of the ancient recipients of hero cultus. I am also not suggesting—as others have in the past (erroneously and under poorly-understood premises)—that comic book superheroes are at all functionally equivalent for modern people to hero cultus, either in localized fashion or as reflected in the larger literary and poetic epics of the ancient world. Whether or not modern comic book superheroes exist as egregores, pop cultural entities, or other such beings, and whether such beings are deserving of honor, worship, reverence, or cultus under a devotional pretense are also not the focus of the present piece, though these may be worthy questions for consideration for those who are interested in such topics.

(Editors note: By way of final disclaimer before proceeding onward into this subject, it is important to remind the readers that this article is a religious and classically focused assessment, albeit of contemporary literary subject matter. In other words, this is not a discussion of comic books or of comics-inspired cinema, but rather of classical heroes as informed by the traditional modes and methods of engaging hero cultus. This is not therefore a discussion of the genre of literary characters called popularly today by the name “superheroes”, but instead an exploration of traditional definitions of heroes, which are often not at all what the common and colloquial usage of the term today would imply. This is important to clarify before proceeding on, because the article utilizes terms drawn from classical religion, rather than contemporary comic books or popular present-day usages, and though these words may be the same, it must be understood that they describe entirely different things. This is, after all, a religious website for religious discussions, rather than other contemporary concerns and interests, however wonderful those may be.)

Now that you know what this article isn’t, and what I won’t be suggesting, let us proceed on to the main discussion.

Of the various Marvel Universe films and other non-print media projects that have occurred recently, Deadpool is noteworthy for a number of reasons. It was one of the highest grossing films in the franchise, and had one of the largest openings of a film of its type in February. It was “proof of concept” that certain more “mature” themes could be treated in a comics-based film…or perhaps merely a sign that somewhat uncouth humor and more profanity is something that people would like to see in their comic book hero films. As someone who only had vague familiarity with the character, and never followed the comics related to him, I was pretty indifferent to matters of whether they were going to “get it right” or how closely they were basing the film on any iteration of the character’s exploits in the comics. I think this detachment and lack of expectations allowed me to enjoy the film on a level that many might not have been able to, and to be that much more surprised and enthralled and even charmed by the surprises that the film had in store. (Strangely enough, despite having rather extensive literary and bibliophilic tendencies, I also prefer to enjoy films as their own form of media rather than to constantly judge them based on their print precursors, and in many cases, Lord of the Rings included, I have not read the books or comics that precede the films. Deal with it, folks!)

As the credits and post-credits scenes were rolling on the film, though, as I watched it in the cinema with a few friends and we were discussing it amongst one another as the last few die-hards were leaving, I said to one of my friends “I think this is my new favorite comic book hero film!” A passer-by, in typical geek know-it-all fashion, came up without introducing himself, and said “Deadpool isn’t a hero, he’s an anti-hero.” The geek in question skittered off before I could respond properly to his…statement? Accusation? Assertion? Interjection? Polemic? Whatever it had been intended as, and no matter how much such a statement might reflect either geeky or conventional wisdom and a somewhat consensus view of the matter, the notion of “anti-hero” is one that needs further consideration in light of a number of things.

Firstly, an “anti-hero” only exists as a category in relation to something which is established as a standard positive valence—in this case, a “hero.” However, what is a “hero”? While the answers to this question will differ widely, one of the only characteristics that unites the heroes of ancient cultus with one another is not virtuous lives, divine parentage, exceptional deeds, or larger-than-life destinies, but in fact the reality of their unusual deaths. By this metric, any hero who isn’t dead isn’t a hero, and can’t be a hero, and thus could be considered an anti-hero. That means that all superheroes whose adventures we follow are, technically, anti-heroes. Does this make any sense as a concept to propagate? Probably not.


The second concern to consider when determining whether a character is a “hero” or an “anti-hero” is that of their tempus, locus, and causa scribendi, to use exegetical terminology. Historical context—the “when” and the “where” of these exegetical questions, as well as the “why” of a particular narrative media’s production is concerned—always shapes a piece of popular culture (or “high culture,” whatever the distinction between the two might be). The “heroes” of yesteryear may be long gone, and are very likely never to return, in their relevance or their appeal for modern and post-modern audiences (much less whatever comes after post-modern, which is probably upon us at present and simply doesn’t have a name yet). No one has to do mental gymnastics of any sort to understand why Deadpool acts as he does, what the basis for his character is, nor does anyone have to question why his behavior amuses and enthralls an audience. No matter how off-the-rails he goes in a given situation, people probably wish they could ignore all the rules that he does, and have that “bad boy” persona that doesn’t give two shits about anything—or, at least, it appears that way—and if a person essentially didn’t have to worry about death or any sort of permanent bodily injury following from their actions, it seems very likely that such an attitude would be not only logical but a preferred option for many people. If heroic fantasies are exercises in wish-fulfillment, then the way in which Deadpool functions in that wish-fulfilling role for modern audiences is a manifestation of what contemporary people are interested in and would prefer.

It may not seem as nice as the heroic ideals we give lip service to so often, but nonetheless, there we are.

However, the realities of behavior in Deadpool’s character and in those of other more well-known heroes from the ancient world are closer than one might think, and thus largely disqualify the “anti-hero” description as well. Herakles, though he was a variety of things and had many different exploits over his rather long (comparatively speaking) life and career, from Labors-completer to Argonaut, he was also not exactly what we would consider “virtuous” on some occasions, nor were some of his actions what we would consider to be worthy of the title “hero” or apt for the descriptors of “heroic.” He did kill one of his wives and children, after all, and no matter what the motivation and situation for this tragic occasion happened to be, it’s still not something that can be easily excused. Achilleus, likewise, is not a hero that one might want to have over for dinner for a variety of reasons. No matter how praiseworthy certain aspects of these figures happened to be, and no matter how memorable they became, it is important to realize—as much for heroes as for Deities—that their narrative actions are not necessarily meant to be models of exemplary behavior. Whether one likes it or not, mythic narratives about cultic heroes are not medieval morality plays nor Protestant ethical sermons and commentaries, nor are they simply metaphors of “the hero’s journey” that are meant to reflect one’s general experiences of life. (The nature and purpose of heroic myth is a question too large to examine in the present context, however!) This is reflected in the film of Deadpool itself, in terms of how Colossus, a “more traditional” superhero with the “Great Power = Great Responsibility” ethos and all of its baggage, both tends to act, to preach, and likewise to be less effective in both of these endeavors in relation to real situations on the ground. The “traditional” heroic ethos no longer seems to be useful when new realities are encountered, and thus those who subscribe to it are less fit to thrive in such situations. Golden-age structures have passed away, and to continue in such mindsets is to misread and misapprehend reality rather than to confront it directly.

In this sense, the “heroic ethos” reveals itself to be a simulacrum—by definition, a thing which only exists in imitated copies, when in fact there is no “original” to have imitated. The heroes of myth and ancient cultus like Herakles and Achilleus and all of the virtues and exemplary characteristics that they supposedly embodied don’t exist outside of the constructed and limited view of the past, heavily idealized and thus distorted, that has been shaped by Victorian bowdlerizations, academic justifications, and cowardice masquerading as piety.

Heroes like Herakles and Achilleus could just as easily be called “anti-heroes” as Deadpool is. These characters—whether from comics or from cultus—are “Great,” but they are not “good” in any moral sense a lot of the time (and remember where a phrase like that has been heard by most audiences: in Mr. Ollivander the magic wand-maker’s description of Voldemort in the first Harry Potter book and film!), nor do they need to be. Of course, we’d like to have figures to admire, look up to, and even imitate in the course of our lives. Politicians and moralists are always expecting any number of role models from religion, popular culture, sports, celebrities, and others to provide a “moral compass” via which others can be guided in their actions. Unless one has been dipped in the River Styx, has Zeus as a father, or had horrific torture performed on oneself such that one is now invulnerable to all physical damage and can re-grow limbs, it’s probably best not to look to Achilleus, Herakles, or Deadpool for a model for one’s actions. The uncommon nature of their own situations should be all the tip-off toward such conclusions which one should require.

Thus, the entire category of “anti-hero” is a dubious one, and really only makes sense if one has an idea of what is “heroic” that fits with a very narrow consensus moralist viewpoint that has more in common with a perfect Protestant boy scout image than with anything that has actually ever existed. As a dubious category, it should probably be dismantled, and whatever descriptive power such a category might have had in any previous periods, it has lost its valence entirely in the modern realities of the twenty-first century, and had no place in the realities of the ninth-century-BCE-through-fourth-century-CE periods, either.

As mentioned previously, the one uniting characteristic for heroes seems to be an unusual or spectacular death; there is no such thing as a “living hero” in the ancient world, as heroic status includes going beyond the mortal condition, still existing and being able to respond and act after death. (Remember, there are infant and child heroes in ancient Greece like Archemoros, Demophoön and Palaimon, amongst others, whose accomplishments in life cannot be said to be virtuous, nor really anything at all other than being a kid in the right place and time to get killed unusually!) In this sense, the living exploits of a given figure, no matter how morally ambiguous or questionable they might be, are not the actions of an “anti-hero,” but instead of an ante-hero: if one is still alive, one is not quite a hero yet, though one might end up being one at a later, post-death date.

Sorry, Deadpool: you may be hard to kill, but then that means you’ll be that much harder to make into a proper hero. But, keep trying, maybe you’ll get there!

There is one other characteristic of Deadpool that is very much like hero cultus in the ancient world, though (despite what I’ve just said about him not being a hero, while also not being an anti-hero, and doing a great deal to help dismantle that dubious distinction). Deadpool is one of the few characters who breaks the fourth wall and goes beyond the borders of the comic he is written in, as well as the film he inhabits. While there have been some interesting philosophical attempts to describe why Deadpool knows he’s a comic book character, there is a more fundamental impact of what this aspect of his character does for the reader. As Philostratus’ Heroikos demonstrates, the reality of devotion to a hero’s cult is that cultic heroes inserts themselves into the realities of their devotees, often in unexpected ways. No matter how much one might put such a hero up on a pedestal, the hero will constantly change positions, get up and down from that pedestal, and perhaps even pull a devotee up on it on occasion, if they don’t also beat them up or have sex with them (or who knows what else!) in the shadow of that pedestal as well. Deadpool’s self-consciousness and interaction with the audience means that there is no passive audience, and one’s gaze and even voyeurism are implicated in consuming that media. Heroes are nothing if not self-conscious—perhaps even to a hyper degree since a motivating aspect of “heroic virtue” is often the desire for eternal fame and glory—and as non-incarnate non-mortals, this aspect of them persists, which may be one reason why those who are hero cultists enjoy such casual and close relations with their ever-eager-for-fame heroes. Just as Deadpool cannot be contained by the panels and pages of his comic, or the frames of his film, so too do heroes—even if they are not on the level of Deities in power—always overflow the containers that human perceptions and religious edifices attempt to place them.


Here are a few invocations, in Gaulish and English, to enable you to call on the Dêuoi.

To Cernunnos:

Gediyins gwuyûmi
Eti woxtlus wegyûmi
Carnonon wediûmi
Tigernon Caiti
Dîclâwetos Cingi
Dêwos Arelayetyo Marwon
Eti detyo ulânon
Yo dîclâwetis Cingon Dêwobo,
anson gediyins Dêwobo beretyo.

Prayers I pour out
And words I weave
Carnonos I invoke
The Lord of the Wood
The Opener of the Way
The God Who Guides the Dead
And gives prosperity
That he open the way to the Gods
bear our prayers to the Gods.

To Sironâ:

Gediyins gwuyûmi
Eti woxtlus wegyûmi
Sironin wediûmi
Dêwin Lugrâs
Dêwin Admesserâs
Ariyin Natrigon
Ariyin Andounnânon
Yâ detsi slaniyin amê
Eti wirobo anextlon bouboc.

Prayers I pour out
And words I weave
Sironâ I invoke
The Goddess of the Moon
The Goddess of Time
Lady of Serpents
Lady of Wells
That she give health/safety to us
And protection to people and cattle.

To Rosmertâ:

Gediyins gwuyûmi
eti woxtlûs wegyûmi
Rosmertin wediûmi
Weletin Mârin
Wegyetin Tonketi
Tigernin Tirri
Dêwin Medi Wlati
yâ detsi boudin
eti wirobo anextlon bouboc.

Prayers I pour out
and words I weave
Rosmertâ I invoke
The Great Seeress
The Weaver of Fate
The Lady of the Land
The Goddess of the Mead of Sovereignty
that she give prosperity/victory
and protection to men and cattle.

To Lugus:

Gediyins gwuyûmi
Eti woxtlus wegyûmi
Lugun wediûmi
Dêwon Gaisi
Tigernon Methâs
Dêwon Alkerdânon
Tigernon Louketi
Yo detis wissun me
Eti wirobo anextlon bouboc.

Prayers I pour out
And words I weave
Lugus I invoke
The God of the Spear
The Lord of the Harvest
The God of All Arts
The Lord of Lightning
In thanks that he gave death to the disease
And protection to people and cattle.

To Eponâ:

Gediyins gwuyûmi
Eti woxtlus wegyûmi
Eponin wediûmi
Dêwin Epon
Rîganin Tîri
Dêwin Ulaties
Rîganin Methâs
Yâ detsi boudiyin amê
Eti wirobo anextlon bouboc.

Prayers I pour out
And words I weave
Eponâ I invoke
The Goddess of Horses
The Queen of the Land
The Goddess of Sovereignty
The Queen of the Harvest
That she give prosperity to us
And protection to people and cattle.

To Taranis:

Gediyins gwuyûmi
Eti woxtlus wegyûmi
Taranin wediûmi
Dêwon Taranês
Tigernon Nemi
Dêwon Rotâs
Tigernon Wiriâs
Yo detis boudiyin amê
Eti wirobo anextlon bouboc.

Prayers I pour out
And words I weave
Taranis I invoke
The God of Thunder
The Lord of Heaven
The God of the Wheel
The Lord of Truth
That he give victory to us
And protection to people and cattle.

To Grannus:

Gediyins gwuyûmi
Eti woxtlus wegyûmi
Grannon wediûmi
Dêwon Sunni
Tigernon Slani
Dêwon Tenetodubri
Tigernon Louki
Yo detis slaniyin amê
Eti wirobo anextlon bouboc.

Prayers I pour out
And words I weave
Grannos I invoke
The God of the Sun
The Lord of Health/Safety
The God of the Fiery Water
The Lord of Light
That he give health/safety to us
And protection to people and cattle.