The Nature of the Gods: The Gods are by far the best known part of Gaulish Polytheism. We have a vast corpus of Latin inscriptions that give us the names of numerous divinities worshiped by Gauls, and a much smaller corpus of Gaulish-language inscriptions, sometimes to the same deities. We have representations of the Gods, symbols, sometimes in clearly understandable settings, sometimes paired with Classical Greco-Roman symbols or images, which can make meanings clearer. We have literary figures in other Celtic languages, and deities in other Indo-European languages, that can low us to make inferences about Their natures. Even so, not everything is known. They are mysterious, and personal experience with Them is needed to truly understand Them.
Dêwos/Dêwâ – The word for “God”: Derived from Proto-Indo-European Déiwos, meaning “God”, but also having connotations of “Shining Ones” and “Celestial Ones”. The general idea is of a shining being of light. While the earliest term suggests a celestial nature, already by the time of the earliest inscriptions and sanctuaries, offerings are being put into pits and shafts, suggesting that the term came to be applied to Underworld beings as well. It needs to be noted that deities are not perfect beings, are in fact capable of making mistakes and doing wrong. While vastly more powerful and better than human beings, they are nevertheless of a similar nature to us. There is no clear demarcation between Gods and lesser irits, for the most part, either. The term can be applied to a vast range of supernatural beings.1
Divine Names: Divine names are mostly descriptive epithets that tell us something about the particular deity in question. Thus we have Rosmertâ, the “Good Provider”, or Sucellus, the “Good Striker”, or Taranis, “Thunder”, and so on. We don’t have “true names” of our Gods in the remonial Magick sense. Names do provide clues about the nature of deities, and may be used in meditation or ritual to connect with them. 2
Divine Symbols – Iconography: The greatest source of linkage to the true nature of our Gods comes from a consideration of their symbols. It is really in the realm of symbolism that the most important truths about the divine nature are conveyed. It must be pointed out that a given deity’s weapons or treasures are not possessions in the usual human sense. Rather, they are expressions of that God or Goddess’s inner essence, less property than a part of the deity, expressing profound truths about him or her. The symbols speak directly to the unconscious mind, and so can une us in”, so to speak, to the energy, the feel, the essence of a divine being. By meditating on the symbols of the Gods, and how these symbols relate to one another, we can bring our religion into our souls.
Divine Couples: One trait of specifically Continental Celtic deities needs mention. They often are grouped in divine couples, similar to the Shiva-Shakti of modern Hinduism. Thus, Mercury/Lugus is paired with Rosmertâ, Sucellus with Natnosueltâ, Grannus with Sironâ, and so on. We cannot be certain what these pairings meant. Certainly, they show signs of heaven-Earth pairing, with celestial-seeming male Gods being paired with Goddesses who seem to have characteristics related to Earth and fertility. In addition, the analogy of Shiva and Shakti may suggest that such vine couples may have represented a Goddess providing a power that is then wielded by a God. 3
Format: Where possible, I am going to follow a fairly standardized format in describing the “Intertribal” or “Major” Gaulish deities. We will give one of the most important names of that deity, and meaning of that name. We will give the leading other names and epithets attached to the deity, where it is clear from iconography and scholarship that the same deity is being described by multiple names. We will give the Interpretatio Romana of the deity. This is a Roman deity associated with the Gaulish deity by the Romans, owing to similar attributes. These are not the same deities, but rather other distinct beings with similar attributes, who can allow us to understand the deity better. We will then give Irish and Indo-European equivalents for the deity. These, again, are distinct, different individuals who play the same roles in related pantheons. We will find that the Irish, Indo-European, and Gaulish pantheons resemble one another very closely, with very similar structures, roles, and themes throughout. We will then give the realm of the deity, which is simply whether I think they live in Albios, Dumnos, this world, or some combination of the three. This is always just my opinion. Then, we will describe the iconography of the deity, as found in the archaeological evidence, if anything is in fact known. And finally, we will give a quick round-up of all the best scholarship on the deity and what these theories are. This is where I will also present my own opinions of and personal gnosis from the deity. I’m only moderately imaginative, so I will mostly be presenting the opinions of leading scholars, and letting you, dear reader, make up your own mind.
- Brunaux, pp. 13-16; Delmarre, p.142; Serith, Deep Ancestors, pp. 47-50 ↩
- Serith, Deep Ancestors, pp. 47-50 ↩
- Krista Ovist, The Integration of Mercury and Lugus: Myth and History in Late Iron Age and Early Roman Gaul, pp. 589-597; Alexei Kondratiev, Basic Celtic Deity Types, http://www.imbas.org/articles/basic_celtic_deity_types.html ↩