The Nemeton – The Sanctuary

The Nemeton – The Sanctuary

Nemeton was the Gaulish term for a sacred place, a sanctuary.1 The term is probably derived from: Nemos: Heaven, Sky2, though even the earliest Nemetâ have pits and other elements suggestive of Underworld connections.

Elements of a Nemeton:

Nemetâ were built over the course of many centuries, and so have diverse designs. One of the more common designs is the Belgic type of sanctuary, typified by such Nemetâ as Roquepertuse, Gournay, and Ribemont.3 Some of the elements common in such Nemetâ include:

Randon: The Boundary, usually a ditch and bank4.

Duoricos: The entrance, a point of communication between the sacred and the profane. Usually takes the form of a bridge over a ditch, and often a monumental gate or portico. Normally in the East.5

Tenos: The Fire, usually a campfire, or a candle in much modern usage. Symbolizes the sacred center of the Nemeton, and represents the Goddess Brigantiâ, as well as a point of communication between the Upper Realm and this world.6

Andounnâ: The Well, also at the center of the sanctuary. Word can mean “water from below”, but here denotes a pit into which offerings are put, representing a point for communication with the Lower World.7

Liccâ: The Altar, a flat stone, often given to the sanctuary by way of dedication, onto which sacred objects may be placed, or offerings poured.8

Deluâ: The Image, a statue or post, representing deity. Usually at the center of the Nemeton, sometimes in the Andounnâ.9

Tegiâ: The House, usually just a building designed to provide shelter for sacred supplies, divine images, and the like.10

Platoi Noiboi Alioi/Other Sacred Places:

In addition to formal sanctuaries, a wide variety of places were, and are, recognized as sacred, either as inhabited by land spirits, or else due to their inherent connections to the other worlds. A few of them are listed below:

Andounnâ: A Sacred Well, in this case meaning a spring or water source. Often sacred to healing deities.11

Locus: A lake, usually the home of a spirit, or an entrance to the Underworld, or both.12

Abonâ: A river. As we have seen, often sacred to Toutodêwâs.13

Liccâ: Here meaning just “stone”. Prominent stones were occasionally the object of cult, and seen as the dwelling place of local divinities or spirits.14

Bilios: Here meaning “large (holy) tree”. Certain large and prominent trees were seen as the swelling place of spirits, and so more sacred than others.15

Brigantion: A high place, a mountain or hill. Usually sacred to Toutatis or Brigantiâ.16

Brogilos: A small, enclosed grove. May be sacred to any number of possible deities and spirits.17

Pettiâs Noibâs Aliâs/Other Sacred Things:

Here a few objects and/or symbols that might appear on altars or in people’s possession. –Citations are for the –Gaulish terms for these things:

Parios: Cauldron, useful for cooking sacred meals. Used by some as a substitute for the Andounnâ. Used by some as a symbol for the west (Wiccan-derived symbolism) or the east (Irish-derived symbolism).18

Gaisos: Spear. Used by some as symbol of the south (Wiccan-derived symbolism), or the west (Irish-derived symbolism), or as a symbol of Lugus.19

Slattâ: Staff, wand. Symbol of the office of welitâ. Some use as a symbol of the office of a druid.20

Cladios: Sword. Used by some as symbol of the east (Wiccan-derived symbolism) or the north (Irish-derived symbolism), or as a symbol of Toutatis and/or Nodens.21

Skênos: Knife. Used to cut things. Also, used by some a substitute for the Cladios.22

Kankâ: Branch. Used to sprinkle holy fluids as part of offerings or magic.23

Maniaces: Torc. A piece of Celtic jewelry of unclear symbolism. May symbolize binding, rank, or both.24

Rotos: Wheel. A common symbol of the power of Taranis and the heavens. Often used in protective jewelry.25

  1.  Demarre, pp. 232-233; Matasovic, p 288
  2.  Delmarre, p. 233-234; Matasovic, p. 288-289
  3. Morpheus Ravenna, The Book of the Great Queen, pp. 201-206
  4.  Jean Louis Brunaux, The Celtic Gauls: Gods, Rites, Sanctuaries, pp. 25-27, Delmarre, p. 434
  5. Brunaux, p. 27; Delmarre, p. 155
  6.  Demarre, p. 293-294
  7. Brunaux, pp. 27-30; Delmarre, p. 48
  8.  Brunaux, pp. 33-35; Delmarre, pp. 200-201
  9.  Matasovic, p. 95
  10.  Brunaux, p.. 30-32; Delmarre, p. 293
  11.  Ken Dowden, European Paganism: The Realities of Cult from Antiquity to the Middle Ages, pp. 39-50; Delmarre, p. 48
  12.  Dowden, pp. 50-51; Delmarre, p. 205
  13.  Dowden, pp. 51-55; Delmarre, pp. 29-30
  14.  Dowden, pp. 58-65; Delmarre, pp. 200-201
  15.  Dowden, pp. 66-77; Delmarre, p. 75
  16.  Dowden, pp. 78-82; Delmarre, p. 87; Noémi Beck, Goddesses in Celtic Religion: a Comparative Study of Ancient Ireland, Britain, and Gaul,
  17.  Dowden, pp. 91-116; Delmarre, p. 91
  18.  Delmarre, p. 246
  19.  Delmarre, pp. 173-174
  20.  Matasovic, p. 345
  21.  Delmarre, p. 117
  22.  Matasovic, p. 341
  23.  Matasovic, p. 187
  24.  Delmarre, p. 214
  25.  Matasovic, pp. 314-315

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  1. Magetos avos versagios!

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