The Dêuoi (Gods) are numerous. In Gaul, there was easily over 300, when counting the places in which the Gaulish language was spoken. That is just what we know, or assume. There are likely many we do not know, and many more deities than we yet know — inside and outside of what was Gaul. Therefore, it’s impossible to do any real treatise on Them. that would take volumes. This is not meant to be treated as an academic treatise, but simply as the result of experience in Bessus Nouiogalation (New Gaulish Custom).
Even a treatise on the known deities of Gaulish tribes would at least fill a book. That would be quite lengthy for a single article! So, the deities we will briefly discuss fill two criteria, either partially or entirely:
- Historically widely worshipped by the Gauls, and named in Gaulish.
- Widely worshipped by Galatîs today. (After all, we are speaking of a new Gaulish Polytheist custom.)
An extensive treatise will not be necessary because usually when one comes to Gaulish Polytheism, it is because they have an interest in or experience with a Gaulish deity. Also, it should be known that the Dêuoi — Gaulish or otherwise, are not limited to things like “function”. Just as a person may be known for doing something, doesn’t mean that it’s all they know or are capable of doing, the same is the case for deities. It is important to remember this when mentioning Gods.
Bessus Nouiogalation doesn’t deal in reductionism. That is, the idea that many different names are those of the same deity, unless they are very linguistically close. A matter of different spelling or dialect. Though it’s indeed possible that a deity may have many names, unless provided with concrete evidence it will not be stated here that one name is a byname for another whether I personally believe that or not.
This does not mean comparative evidence cannot help illuminate and buttress the understanding of a deity either. It can and often does. However, noting likenesses is not the same thing as saying two deities are literally the same. By respecting these distinctions, we can “play it safe”. If two names are in reference to the same deity, no foul is committed. If they are not, proper respect has still been given.
Here is a brief list of deities in Bessus Nouiogalation (Galatîbessus). With a little bit of background. Facts and gnosis included. Either from myself or what I have heard from my interactions with fellow Galatîs:
Carnonos (Cernunnos) – Carnonos is suspected to be His Gaulish name, Cernunnos being a later form used in the Gallo-Roman era. Either way, most will know who you are talking about. The etymology isn’t certain, but is commonly thought to mean “Horned One”.
He is often depicted with a ram horned serpent, and sometimes with animals like bulls, of course deer, and occasionally a rat. He is also depicted with a torc or torcs, the famous neck rings associated with the Gauls among other peoples. Also being depicted on the Pillar of the Boatmen, this leads to a linking of Him to commerce and trade. In Celtiberia, depictions of Him as being like Janus links Him to being a God of Bidirectionality.
As we can expect, this paints a very interesting picture of a God who was linked to many things, and as Gods are, very complex. We see chthonic and liminal aspects. Riches of Dumnos (the Underworld), but also of a kind of intermediary, travel and perhaps a kind of psychopomp, one who guides souls of the dead.
A gnosis I can offer is that of Artogenos Uindoguððus (ð is a “ts” sound in these parts). He suspects that Carnonos is a river father. Rivers are associated with trade, wealth, and travel. They are also associated with depths, Dumnos, the chthonic, infernal. Water often is. So we can see liminal and chthonic properties at work. Bulls and deer being on either side of Him reflect a boundary of the “civilized” and the “wilds”. An important distinction at a time where being in the settlement was the safest place to be and when the wilds really were that. They still are in some places, but not to the extent they were in the Iron Age, for sure.
Brigantiâ (Brigindonâ) – Her name is thought to mean “the High One”, high as in elevated like a hilltop or a mountain. This is where forts were often constructed, which can reasonably lead to a conclusion that She is a warrior Goddess. Being depicted with spears and in a helm certainly strengthens the idea. Being likened to Minerva, who is likened to Athena, the patron Goddess of Athens, who is associated with war and strategy among other things paints a deeper picture. She was also likened to Victoria.
In Her, we see a protective Goddess of warfare. In Britain, She was the tutelary Goddess of the Brigantes tribe. In Gaul, She was depicted with a spear, a “globe of victory”, as well as with a gorgon’s head on Her chest. So we can see deep mythological elements that makes one easily associate Her with the arts of war.
I have no direct gnosis to offer of Brigantiâ in reference to who She is. As a firm and fierce protectress is how I see Her as well. I don’t see a connection to Irish Brighid, but I also have no desire to come across as invalidating the views of those who comparatively illuminate Brigantiâ through Her. After all, deities cannot be put into neat little boxes. It is simply that I do not make the connection.
Taranis – Here, with Taranis (in dedication of all the work here that I do) there is more known. Or at least ideas of Him are a bit easier to flesh out in comparison to other Dêuoi. His name means “Thunder” or “Thunderer”. Which is agreed upon by every expert that at least I am aware. His name underlines with what He is most associated: thunder, storms, lightning, rain. There is much else which we will talk of here.
He is often outright depicted wielding either a literal thunderbolt, especially in Gallo-Roman times, or a club or staff. Both of which are striking weapons. This aligns well with lightning. In Britain, a God holding a crooked club with a wheel beside Him is depicted. Bringing us to His most enigmatic symbol: the wheel. Wheels are depicted in His place more than any image of Him. Wheels are found with or alongside inscriptions bearing His name, so we can safely attribute wheels as a symbol of Him.
The club, staff, weapon is a more clearly understood symbol. The wheel is more mysterious. There are many theories. Some are as simple as an analogy of “rolling thunder”. Others as deep as the rotation of the skies, which puts Him up to be a deity of the sky, and not just storms. With that association, He can be assumed to also be associated with the general upholding of truth and order. On Jupiter columns (He is most associated with Jupiter, surprise) an uncommon depiction of Jupiter on horseback, which Jupiter is not depicted with, are often found along the Rhine. Which ran through Gaulish lands. Under these Jupiters is a serpent or monster being trodden upon.
It is quite common for thunder Gods to be slayers of serpents and monsters. Taranis appears to be no exception. So, we have a great sky and thunder God who upholds truth and slays cosmic enemies. However, He isn’t all about death and destruction. After all, He is slaying things that are a threat. Storms also bring rain, which gives life and feeds the land. Lightning is beneficial to soil as well. And so it is fair to see Him as just as much a God who gives life. With winds that come with storms, breath.
I offer the interwoven facts and gnosis here. It also warrants mentioning that wheels have been seen on urns. This means He probably has a function in death. Also, wielding lightning comes with fire, which both purifies and sanctifies. As with other Dêuoi, we see a great and complex deity.
Eponâ – Her name is certainly related to the Gaulish word for horse, which is Epos. So, it’s clear that She is a Goddess of horses. However, She is much more complicated than that. Horses hold connotations of sovereignty, and Otherworldly travel. Perhaps because of their ability to traverse the land. However, horses are not the only things depicted with Her.
Grains, and later cornucopiae, are also featured with Her. This suggests that She is associated with harvests and the fruits of the earth. As for the horses, She was depicted riding them side saddled. Which doesn’t suggest a Goddess of horse riding, but She was in fact worshipped by cavalry. This carries notions of being a Goddess of war.
She was also depicted with a key, suggesting an inclination toward domestic functions as well. Here we have a complex, multi faceted Goddess. Of horses, war, harvest, and the home. A couple of interesting offerings to Her in the past were roses, and a cauldron. Which furthers Her domestic associations.
With many burials we also see remains of horses or of horse drawn vehicles. This means She was possibly associated with the function of a psychopomp. This also suggests, if related to cavalry that She may have also been one to lead a spectral ride, perhaps similar to a Wild Hunt. This usually takes place in the winter in most cultures.
When Gaul fell, Eponâ occupied a unique position of being the subject of Roman worship as well, with a feast day of 18 December, Eponalia. It seems that worship of Her is sometimes related to the time of the middle of winter, which back them would have been thought of as near the winter solstice. It is possible, at least as far as my gnosis goes, that She also gives birth to a child around this time. As midwinter times seem to be a time of celebrating Her, that child may have some kind of solar relation.
Maponos – His name has to do with the word Mapos, which means “son, young boy”. In Gallo-Roman times, He was likened to Apollo. So we see a connection to youthfulness, and a solar connection. Though not a son God. He is depicted with a harp on a relief in Northern Britain which is another interesting Apollo connection. With His connection not only to light and youthfulness, but also to music. An Apollo connection could also suggest a connection to healing.
In Gaul, He is invoked on a magic tablet, a defixione, in which the words of a spell are inscribed upon it. Suggesting that He has connections to magic as well. So here we have a deity associated with sunlight, healing, music, and magic. Gnosis-wise, I suspect He was born in the winter and as Eponâ is also venerated at the time, maybe She is His mother? This would certainly be a break from Maponos’s Welsh cognate of Mabon who is the son of Modron, in Gaulish Matrona.
It is theorized by some that Oengus Mac Og is related in a way to Maponos, His mother is Boann, so we see at least some variation in the mothers of Gods of this kind. A supporting argument I offer for this gnosis is that horses have been known to have a solar connection, and if Eponâ is venerated near a solar event, that event may be related to Maponos, who by comparison to Apollo has solar traits.
Sironâ – Her name has to do with the word Sirâ, meaning “star”. She is depicted with eggs, snakes, and associated with healing springs. She is also depicted wearing a star shaped diadem, and wearing a long gown. The snake and eggs bring to mind a connection to the Greek Goddess Hygeia.
Here we have a Goddess of healing, of stars, of springs and wells. She is also depicted once holding grains and fruits. Temples to Her were also built around springs and wells. So, we have her associated with snakes, eggs, wells, springs, stars, and fertility.
My gnosis is that the star connection coupled with snakes, eggs, and wells have to do with the liminal period of spring. Wells fill, and springs are more active this time of year. Snakes emerge from their burrows, and eggs are hatching at this time. As this is the time of that emergence, I suspect if a star were related to her, it wouldn’t actually be a star, but the planet Venus. Of course, other planets look like stars to the naked eye in the sky.
Though not directly in the shape of a star, Venus does move through five points in the sky, and is visible mainly in the evening and morning, a liminal time of day, and spring is a liminal time of year. I also realize that’s a fairly generous gnosis, so take from it what you will.
Sucellos – His name is thought to mean either “kind” or “good striker”. He is depicted with a big mallet and sometimes a cup. He is thought to be associated at the least with wine growing and agriculture. He has also been depicted wearing a wolf pelt.
He was compared to Silvanus, who is associated with woods and forests. Sucellos is thought by many Gaulish Polytheists today to be comparable to the Roman Dis Pater, and is also seen accompanied by a dog. If we take a look at the comparison with Dis Pater, an Underworld God as He is associated with agriculture and mineral wealth, and Caesar’s claim that the Gauls claim descent from Him, it paints a broad picture.
So, we have in Sucellos a progenitor, a God of Dumnos, the Underworld. He rules over the treasure of Dumnos, bestowing wealth and life from below. He is also depicted alongside Nantosueltâ.
Nantosueltâ – Her name has a few possible meanings. Xavier Delamarre gives “sun warmed valley”. She has been depicted holding a house on a pole, with beehives, and with a crow or raven, under a depiction of the sun. Which show suggestions of a few things within which She may be involved.
The house gives a couple of possibilities to me. It could either be some kind bird house, or meant to be an actual house showing perhaps Her supporting the home, perhaps from below, giving Her a chthonic quality. The carrion bird, a raven or crow perhaps relating to death. This gives the impression of a Goddess involved with both prosperity in life, and machinations of death. An implication of the gifts of Dumnos to Bitus (our world).
Belenos – There are a few contending interpretations for what His name means, but normally is thought to mean something like “Shining One”. He was likened by the Romans to Apollo. This can provide some insight into His nature. He is associated with sunlight (but not a God of the sun), light, horses (clay ones were offered to Him), and war. It was once said that He was seen defending the city of Aquileia from a seige.
He is also associated with hot springs, tying Him into healing. Altogether, He sounds like a very ancient God. And it’s possible that He could have been mythologically associated with pulling the sun across the sky in a horse drawn chariot, based on His traits and the clay horse offerings. His worship was widespread, apparently starting out in Eastern Gaul to Noricum, and spreading west and north, to Britain.
Artiu – Her name comes from the word Artos, meaning “bear”. So immediately we can see that bears play an obvious role in Her cult and She is depicted with them. The form we have of Her name is Artio, which seems odd for a feminine name as O-stems (example: Ogmios) denote a masculine name. This means we could be looking at a name with Gaulish origin, but Latin grammar. In Gaulish, this would translate to Artiu.
With Her connection to bears we have to try to extrapolate what that means for how to perceive Her, as we have less information and no likenesses to foreign deities for which to compare Her. The first thing we could easily notice is that a mother bear is both strong and protective. So, it is fair to assume She is a protectress. Next, we can see a very close relation to the cycle of the seasons and wager that She has a role in that.
Moreover, a mother bear does not merely protect Her cubs, but teaches them. This could mean that a Goddess of bears could teach much about survival on the land. That like a mother bear to her cubs, Artiu gives wisdom to Her worshippers.
Rosmertâ – Her name is thought to mean “Great Provider”. She is depicted with fruits, a cornucopia, as well as with coins and an offering bowl. It is clear that She is a Goddess of the wealth of the land. The abundance of the fruits of harvest and wealth perhaps that those fruits can provide.
Interestingly, She is depicted alongside Mercury, and this leads many to consider Her to be paired with Lugus. This is a reasonable assumption, and with Lugus being a God of skills and wealth, Rosmertâ is a source for those things by holding the wealth of the land, from which all things come.
Lugus – There are a few potential meanings for His name. But the best I’ve seen is His name relating to oaths. Lugus is thought to be the mysterious “Gaulish Mercury”. This is for the reason that Caesar states that Mercury was the most revered God, of course not literally Mercury but a deity likened to Him. He said that this God was a patron of trade, protector of travelers and the inventor of arts.
This lead scholars to liken Lugus to Irish Lugh, who is said to be skilled in all arts. Lugus is not Lugh, but They both seem to share this trait and linguistic relation. There are also other Gaulish Gods likened to Mercury, so Lugus is not the only one, but it seems fair to assume Him among Them.
His symbology includes spears, ravens, roosters, bags of coin, and being depicted with three faces. Here we can interpret that He is proud and skilled in war, familiar with death, looking in multiple directions, probably in guard, and a patron of wealth and prosperity.
Cathuboduâ – Her name means “Battle Crow”, as there isn’t thought to be a “th” sound in Gaulish, the “h” is probably silent and I generally don’t use it. Her name says a lot about that with which She is involved. War. There is a belief that crows were thought to choose who was to be slain on the field of battle. Presumably because they consume those who die.
However, as there are other cultures with beliefs that those who die were carried up to a to the afterlife by crows or ravens. It is in some ways, as those who fall in battle are celebrated in many cultures, not a completely bad thing to have been chosen. Since if one assumes they will die and provided they don’t flee are probably going to fight ferociously.
So, She is indeed not only a Goddess accustomed to death, She is involved in the process. Carrying the fallen on Her wings to a good afterlife.
Aisus – Also spelled Esus. His name is thought to mean “lord” or “master”. He has been likened to both Mars and Mercury. He is most well known for the depiction of Him pruning a tree with what may be either an axe or a billhook. Near Him is Tarvos Trigaranos (Bull and Three Cranes). The cranes perhaps a death omen. Theories as to what this means varies, but my suspicion is that Aisus is maintaining a sacred grove. Remember that such groves were carefully curated places.
By maintaining the grove, sacrifice, as bulls were commonly a sacrificial animal, was possible. So whether or not He kills Tarvos Trigaranos is irrelevant. He at least makes the sacrifice possible. He is also invoked in an invocation relating to the curing of a troubled throat. Suggesting that He may also be involved in magic.
Ogmios – The meaning of His name is uncertain. Xavier Delamarre gives “guide, path”, and somewhere else (memory fails) “conductor” was suggested. These have to do with the belief that He is one who leads souls to the afterlife. Allegedly by binding them with His speech. it is said that those who went with Him did so gladly. It is said that Ogmios was likened to Hercules.
He is also, according to Jean-Louis Brunaux in ‘Les Gaulois: vérités et légendes’ speaks of Ogmios, being likened to Hercules as being an ancestor of the Gauls as a whole. This happens around the time of interaction with the Greeks which led to a rapid increase in infrastructure. A time when the Gauls begin to see themselves as Gauls. Though regional identities were usually stronger. (A factor in their tragic downfall.)
He was depicted as an older man, with sun darkened skin. Brunaux adds that He was said to have had in His retinue people of many nations. This has led to that being gnosis, if not what literally was the case, fleshing out an otherwise not as well known Gaulish God.
Matirês – Their names meaning “Mothers”, and I have Gallicized the Latin usage, more familiar, Matres. There was a Matronâ worshipped as the Goddess of the Marne River in France. It is unknown if She is a singular form of these Mother Goddesses or a different Goddess entirely, but to be safe, we will assume She is distinct. As all of these Mother Goddesses are distinct from one another. Often tied into very specific tribes, but also one or many nations. So we have a very broad spectrum when it comes to these Goddesses.
Matres were worshipped from Spain to Germany, and from the Netherlands to Northern Italy, also in Britain. The first inscriptions we see are from Northern Italy in the 1st century CE. Does this mean this is when this cultus started or where? Who knows? Though this was a Romanized part of Gaul, worship of Them seems spread along the lines of Gaul, Britain, and along the Rhine. As opposed to being common in Rome.
Romans in these places worshipped Them too, of course, but it’s not really known if they had anything to do with Their cultus at its foundation. We just know it was spread all over Gaul. They governed many things, often fertility, rivers, and families. However, so much more. They were involved in war, and many other things. They were depicted with fruits, grains, children, dogs, with hair covered and uncovered. As well as with pigs. Perhaps receiving sacrifice.
Their cultus was widespread and for all manner of purpose. They governed all manner of things.
Suleuiâ – She is spoken of in either triplicates or singularly. Her name is thought to mean “good guide”. Compared to the Roman Junones (feminine guardian spirits), and sometimes the Matres — of Gaulish, Germanic, and Roman fame. Though sometimes, the Matres and Suleuiâs were invoked together. So we can see that the boundary between the two kinds of Goddesses or spirits was not always clear.
Suleuiâ or Suleuiâs are Goddesses of people, but in an important functional context — places, especially homes. Now it may have in the past been tribal or regional Suleuiâs that were more relevant. In a modern context, as many of us do not live around, and in many cases don’t live with folks who share our Bessus (custom), Suleuiâs solve the Gaulish context of the household spirit.
Something to think about when we light our uandalâs (candles) to the guardians of our homes or selves. As They are a very special kind of spirit.
Toutatis – Taken to mean “of the people”. Like Suleuiâs, Toutatîs seem to be a kind of deity. The difference is that there is no record of Them being invoked in triplicate or multiples, but it seems to be the thought that there was one per tribe, that each one had a Toutatis. A Toutatis is considered a protector of the tribe, and were normally likened with the Roman Mars.
With this being the case, and though I stress caution when making assumptions — it would not be surprising to me if many Mars likened Gaulish war Gods couldn’t easily fall under this category. Such as Camulos, Caturix, Rudianos, Smertrios, etc. These Gods are of course distinct and are not “different faces of the same deity” or anything of the kind. They are known for being Gods of war, but also of healing and fertility.
All of this just scratches the surface. There are many more deities that were worshipped by the Gauls. Many more worshipped by Galatîs today. However, as there are many places to find information, and many conclusions to be drawn as well as new gnosis appearing to folks constantly, I felt a brief introduction was appropriate.
I find it best to not say too much so that you can find your own way through the infinite mysteries that are the Dêuoi, because no one person — myself or anyone else can ever tell you all that can be known about Them.