Often, the topic of discussion is on practice and what is done. Or how things are to be seen, usually for the application of a structured purpose. Less time is spent discussing belief. Save for of course, Polytheism.
Though as Polytheism is a belief in many deities, and is often blatantly named in religions with Polytheist outlooks, i.e. Gaulish Polytheism, it doesn’t paint the whole picture. This is why though the term “Gaulish Polytheism” is the most easily recognized, I don’t actually like the use of it as the name of a custom. This is why the term “custom”, or better so in Gaulish — Bessus, is more often used here.
As Polytheism, though extremely important is still only part of the equation of bessus. So, if Polytheism, in Iextis Galation — Eludêuaxtâ, is only part of the belief structure… What else is there? Animism, or Anatiaxtâ. Another key part of Bessus.
Animism is the belief that all things have a soul, spirit, or life force. This is something that can be found in many customs throughout the world from the past and present. Like the term Polytheism, Animism is normally a term that is a descriptor of customs than a custom itself. As in the past, many traditional religions, customs were described by academics Animism. However, that’s a misnomer as those customs all have names and structures and cannot be so simply described. Many are Animistic, but that is not the whole story. As the customs of many in the world have long deep and distinct structures that cannot be done justice by calling them all one thing.
So, we must look at how Animism can apply to a community focused custom like Bessus Nouiogalation, or in a greater context that Galatîs might find helpful. To do that, we must look at the Gauls of the past themselves.
More broadly, Miranda Green’s book ‘Animals in Celtic Life and Myth’ (first sentence in chapter 8):
“The Celts were animists: they believed that all aspects of the natural world contained spirits, divine entities with which humans could establish a rapport: animals themselves thus possessed sanctity and symbolism.”
There were deposits of votive offerings in all manner of places, in waters, mounds, mountains, and woods. Also in settlements, so that many places were candidates for the placement of offerings. These places were also seen to be the residence of Gods, spirits, or the places and things at these places were worshipped themselves.
Animals also are depicted alongside deities, as well as on their own in prominent figures, statuettes, and in carvings. They too had a special place in in the function of custom. Though we speak of Gauls, they were no exception to the worship of all manner of things, such as trees, stones, as well as the sun, moon, and fire.
The line between Gods and spirits are said to be blurred, if it exists at all. As any being that is worshipped could be considered a deity. Some are more well known, for sure, and so their place in a society, their mythology and custom may be more prevalent than others. But this need not exclude those that are less known, or of the local environment.
Often in discourse, when new people come to Gaulish custom, they will learn of Gods, and will piece together things with which They are associated. As is normal in Polytheistic context. However, we must not forget that we are surrounded by spirits with whom it is possible to build rapport and exchange gifts. Participating in the Cantos Râti, the circle of gifting, is not only possible with these beings, but is what the Gauls of the past did as well. Or at least presumably so.
An attempt here will be made to make a humble list of spirits that one may find. Some are big, some small that could be thought to coexist along with the Dêuoi, the Gods. Beings to be either noticed, exchanged with, or worshipped outright. Perhaps to be placated or avoided.
Using a dialect of Gaulish, Iextis Galation, we can construct names for beings. Thus giving us a (New) Gaulish context with which to engage with the many beings that aren’t traditionally listed amongst the Gods, though there is a degree of overlap with otherwise known deities:
Dêiuos – the “Sky Father”, a reflex of Proto-Indo-European Dyeus. A being beyond worship, as He is representative of Dedmis or Assus, that which is ordained according to ritual.
Litauiâ – the “Earth Mother”. Also beyond worship as She holds all.
Sonnos – the Sun, who lends His power to Gods of light.
Lucrâ – the Moon, who holds the measures of time.
Aidletâ – the hearth, present in the home.
(All –atîs endings are plural. To make them singular, just remove the accent. Thus, the singular is -atis.)
Caitatîs – spirits of the forest (collectively).
Gortiatîs – spirits of the garden
Uoberatîs – spirits of springs.
Bergatîs – spirits of the mountains (collectively).
Blâtuatîs – spirits of the flowers.
Tegatîs – spirits of the house.
Logatîs – spirits of the burial mounds, cemeteries.
Moriatîs – spirits of the sea or ocean.
Ancenetlâ – spirits of the wilds (collectively).
Abonatîs – spirits of rivers.
Ditrebatîs – spirits of the desert.
Glendatîs – spirits of the shore or riverbank.
Nantuatîs – spirits of the valley.
Clucatîs – spirits of the rock(s) or stone(s).
Acitatîs spirits of the plains, fields.
Croucatîs – spirits of the hills.
Locuatîs – spirits of the lake or reservoir.
Toutatîs – (attested) guardian Gods of tribes, cities.
Matrês – (attested) Mother Goddess that governed tribes, nations, places, as well as fertility.
Suleuiâs – (attested) guardian goddesses of people, places, and households. The name means “good guides”, thus also possibly helpful in divination.
Cauaros – a giant, comparable to Greek Titans.
Uîronatrix – a dragon, traditionally an enemy of the likes of Taranis and a hoarder of wealth and power.
Matican – horned serpent, seen on the Gundestrup Cauldron, held by Carnonos, defeated by Taranis or one who is given His power.
Dusios – (attested) Dusioi (pl.), crop destroying, seductive, satyr-like beings. Presumably able to shapeshift into human form.
Canioi – euphemistic name for Otherfolk, like “good folk”, “fair folk”, “good neighbors”.
Antumnatis – Antumnatîs (pl.), Otherfolk
Anderoi – (attested) “those below”, chthonic beings.
Ueranadoi – “those above”, celestial beings. Presumed based on smaller figures on the Gundestrup Cauldron, as well as the assumption of inhabitants of celestial realms, servants of celestial deities, etc.
Corros – Corroi (pl.), dwarves. Presumably present in caves, and around soil, fashioning and working things that grow from the ground.
Cucullatis – (attested) Cucullatîs (pl.) hooded spirits, depicted with eggs, daggers, and phallic symbols. Could have healing associations if tied in with Greek Telesphorus.
As can be seen there are a few attested beings. With the help of the language, we can construct names for beings to aid in the revival of Gaulish language and custom. A lot of the constructed names relatively vague for two reasons:
- Today, those who take up Galatîbessus (Gaulish Custom) live all over the world. So if only one location were spoken of, it would not have been helpful to those living in different climates. The reader will know their local environment better than the author can.
- Keeping names vague can help those who are either not as familiar with their local environment, or to be respectful to the spirits known by peoples who previously or currently inhabit a given area.
Be aware though, that often proper names were given. So, if a being of any of these places already has a name and if it’s acceptable, that’s a possibility. Otherwise, the names of established Gaulish deity names can certainly be used. However, if the goddess of your local river is named Matronâ, She won’t be the same Matronâ as the goddess of the Marne river. Unless it just so happens, that’s where you are.
As animals also play a role in Animism, a list of animals is provided that are generally well known. Animals often have qualities and/or specific importances to people and communities. There is more than one word for most, so the choices here are relatively arbitrary.
Taruos – bull
Bous – cow
Epos – horse
Turcos – boar
Muccos – pig
Gabros – goat
Moltos – ram
Damâtis – sheep, ewe
Cû – dog
Cattos – cat
Caliacos – rooster
Cercâ – hen
Biiâ – bee
Bledinos – wolf
Lugus – lynx (not the god)
Louernos – fox
Trasgos – badger
Casnos – hare
Alcos – elk
Caruos – stag
Elantî – deer
Selecos – turtle
Bebrus – beaver
Dubrocû – otter
Eriros – eagle
Boduos – crow
Garanos – crane
Uolcos – falcon, hawk
Cauannos – owl
Gansos – goose
Elarcî – swan
Natrix – snake, serpent
Esox – salmon
Morimilon – whale
Morimoccus – dolphin
Naupredâ – eel
Truxtâ – trout
Lastly, a list of trees is also provided. Again, there is often more than one word for the kind of tree, so the choice is more arbitrary:
Deruos – oak
Eburos – yew
Betuâ – birch
Aballâ – apple tree
Opolos – maple, sycamore
Uxtâ – pine
Cairotannos – rowan
Bagos – beech
Colinnâ – holly
Onnâ – ash
Agriniâ – blackthorn
Sapos – fir, spruce
Scobis – elder
Sparnos – hawthorn
Bilios, Drus – World Tree
Prennon – tree