The world is full of spirits and across every culture there are multitudes of supernatural creatures that both help and harm mankind. In Gaul there is a spirit that is just as helpful to mankind as it can be harmful, the Dusioi. Dusioi are spirits of the land and of the wilds. The are shapeshifters but are normally seen as half man, half goat, Satyr-like beings. “Dus” in Gaulish means “bad”. The word may be related to Scandinavian “Tusse” meaning “fairy”.
The Breton word duz, a type of fairy, goblin, or changeling, is derived by many scholars from dusios. The Fairies or Fae or “Otherfolk” are very similar to the Gaulish Dusioi in the sense that they are both helpful and harmful. Fairies are a bit ambiguous as they don’t seem to have a consistent look or behavior which means that fairy can be an umbrella term for various spirits and creatures.
Fairies can be very benevolent if given the proper respect but still walk that fine line of mischievous and chaotic as they’re synonymous with nature and the untamed and unpredictable aspects of it. Since Dusioi appear as goat men they are a physical representation of this balance between tamed and untamed. This also reflects how they behave. The human side can be seen as more benevolent and helpful to humans while the animal side is unpredictable and More chaotic.
Fairies, particularly in insular Celtic cultures, are linked to the lore of fairy rings, hollow hills, and other entryways to the Otherworld. These locations are liminal spots that are between worlds. Since Dusioi are physical representations of the “in between” they also could be linked to such locations. In Gaulish Polytheism, the God Carnonos (The Horned One) is the gatekeeper between worlds. These similarities could link the Dusioi with Carnonos. That link could also shed light on “dus” perspective. Should one look for or stumble upon one of these doorways, it can only mean trouble when the Dusioi catch them.
Dusioi is likely related to a semantic field of Indo-European words, some meaning “phantom, vapor,” as for example Lithuanian dvãse, “spirit, phantom,” and dùsas, “vapor”; and others meaning “fury” (Old Irish dás-, “to be in a fury”), particularly in a divine sense, as Greek thuia, “bacchante,” and Latin furiae (the Furies). The Dusioi are spirits that can cause a lot of damage and hardship to those who do not show respect and can be seen as spirits of punishment. These roots can also strengthen the point that Dusioi are shapeshifters that can be intangible like vapor or mist but can be felt like a gust of wind or a breath.
The Dusioi relation to the Roman Fauns and the Greek Satyrs could suggest a ravenous sexual appetite. Being half goat, Dusioi may be subject to instinctual desires and wild carnal impulses. Animals like goats, sheep, cows, horses, deer, etc are especially aggressive and territorial during mating seasons. The rut is a great time for hunters as male deer are much bolder when looking for a female, but it’s also a more dangerous time for hunters as these males will attack other animals and even humans at times. Anyone who’s ever owned livestock of any kind can attest that these animals’ primary drive is food and procreation. This aspect fits well with Dusioi being territorial over sacred spaces and gateways to the Gaulish Otherworld. The holiday,Trinox Samoni, which BNG recognizes as a celebration of Taranis’s victory over the forces of darkness around the summer solstice. Summer is a time of agricultural importance and the Dusioi may be a problem as some crops are getting ready for harvest. Trinox Samoni rituals are meant to drive away bad spirits along with the Dusioi until the harvest is done.
“Life of St Richarius” describes the Dusii (called Maones in later versions) as beings that steal crops and damage orchards. Later medieval writings would continue writing about the Dusioi/Dusii as Mavones, Maones, Manes, and Magonians which evolved into spirits from the sky which could be a representation of bad storms. This name change could be a link to the Roman Manes, infernal beings or Gods that were shades of the dead. Isidore also claims that the manes were Gods of the dead located between the earth and the moon which also links to the medieval Magonians which lived in the clouds. Augustine also calls the Dusii “aerial in substance”. Dusioi are attested as land/earth spirits in earlier accounts but with “vapor/phantom” in their root and their shape shifting ability they could maybe have storm associations as well which would make them enemies of Taranis or possibly even servants of Taranis that go rouge when their animal side takes over.
Whitley Stokes connected the dusii to Slavic dusi (“spirits”), dusa (“soul”), dusmus (“devil”). Duz sometimes has been proffered as the origin of deuce as a name for “devil”. Latin writers Augustine and Isidore describe the Dusii as an incubus type demon that is driven by lust and can mate with humans. The Dusii were prevalent as late as the 13th century. However, looking at history, the Dusioi became seen more and more malevolent and evil as time went on and demonized with the rise of Christianity. WIth Christianity, most, if not all, spirits and creatures became seen as evil and demonic. But while they may have been dangerous and things to be feared, spirits were seen as benevolent if honored and treated with respect.
The Dusioi are half beast but they are also half human (in appearance) and while the animal side represents their darker side, the humanoid half represents their tamed and civilized nature. The Dusioi can be seen as caretakers of the land and aid farmers in sowing the seeds and keeping the land fertile. Protectors of those who respect the land, the forests, the sacred places. If they are connected to Carnonos, they may be guides and defenders of souls as they journey to the gateway. If Isidore and medieval writers are correct that they are shades of the dead then the Dusioi are perhaps spirits of the ancestors of mankind. What can be said, is that the Dusioi walk that line of good and bad. A Dusios can be helpful but they can be harmful. The balance of knowing how to honor them during the year but then casting them away when their animal side takes over is key to living with the Dusioi. Not to be in constant fear but cautious of their beastial nature and to be thankful and respectful of their humanity.
Written by Artocatos Taranicnos