Forgotten Ancient French Goddesses from the Gaulish Celtic Pantheon

Forgotten Ancient French Goddesses from the Gaulish-Celtic Pantheon

It’s not often we hear of the Gaulish pantheon. The Gauls were a large tribe of Celts who lived in the region that is now France, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, and some of Northern Italy and Germany. The Gauls had their own beliefs and traditions, as well as deities. In this article, we revive the ancient French goddesses like the bear goddess and the goddess of healing springs who deserve a moment in the spotlight!

French Goddesses, You Say?

I’ve had numerous people comment on this blog post and say there’s no such thing as “French goddesses”. While I admit that these goddesses did not originate with the modern French people, they did originate in the area we now call the country of France. And the reason I wrote this article was to give people of French ancestry or heritage the ability to connect with deities from that region, even if they are ancient deities from a people long ago. So when I say “French goddesses”, I’m really saying goddesses from the Gauls, a Celtic people who lived in the area of France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, etc. in ancient times. As well as goddesses from the Franks, a Germanic people who also lived in the area of France in later times. So, roll with it, people. Let’s not get so caught up in semantics.

Now, For the French Goddesses…

Abnoba: Gaulish-Celtic Goddess of the Hunt

Abnoba is a Gaulish goddess who was once worshiped in the Black Forest region of Germany in ancient times. Her name may mean river or water, indicating she originated as a river guardian spirit. An ancient altar and Roman bath in Muhlenbach compared Abnoba to Diana, Roman goddess of the hunt. It’s safe to say Abnoba may share many other qualities of Diana like a domain over the moon and wildlife. There’s also a mountain range named for Abnoba, making her an ancient French water and earth goddess.

Artio: The Bear Goddess

We don’t know a lot about Artio, an ancient french goddess, but what we do know is she was intimately connected to bears. The few pieces of evidence we have of her cult’s existence have been found in modern Switzerland and Southern Germany. A bronze statue depicting Artio feeding a giant bear was found in Bern, Switzerland. Scholars say she is feeding the bear because she has a bowl of fruit in her lap. There was once a great tale about this encounter, I’m sure; however, over time the lore of Artio was lost. The inscription on the Bern statue translates to “for the goddess Artio”. As with Artemis’ name, we see the link to the bear in Artio’s name. Art translates to mean bear in Gaulish.

Artio was an Ancient French Goddess of Bears
Artio was the Ancient French Goddess of Bears

Bormana: Gaulish-French Goddess of Healing Springs

Bormana was a Gaulish-French goddess worshiped alongside Bormo (a god of healing). Bormana’s name translates to “boiling” which makes Bormana a goddess of healing springs. Bormana was once a spirit of the water that was eventually deified, as in many of the Celtic gods and goddesses. Her cult was prominent in Southern Gaul (France). However, because the god Bormo was venerated in the city of Bourbonne les Bains in Eastern France, Bormana’s cult might have been more wide-spread than once thought.

Bormana is one of the ancient french goddesses forgotten in time.
Bormana was a goddess of healing associated with water.

Damona: French Goddess of Animals

Damona is another obscure ancient French goddess worshiped in Eastern Gaul whose name means ox or sheep. Because of her name, she was most likely a goddess who protected animals and ruled over fertility and abundance.

Dea Matrona: The Divine Mother Goddess

Dea Matrona, also Dea Matres, was a Mother Goddess of the Gauls whose worship spread to the Teutons and Romans. She was a triple goddess depicted as three women holding baskets of fruit and flowers. The Dea Matrona protected children, animals, hearth and home. Her name and image were placed in fields to assure a plentiful crop. Dea Matrona is compared to the Welsh Goddess Modron, who is the mother of the god Mabon. The Three Mothers are linked to triple goddesses appearing in other cultures, such as: the Norse Norns, the Roman Fates, and the Greek Moirai.

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Dea Matrona was a triple mother goddess of the Gaulish French goddesses.
Dea Matrona was a triple goddess known across Europe.

Freia, Frankish French Goddess

The Franks occupied a large portion of what is today modern France, and it’s pretty obvious the country was named for this Germanic people. Being of Germanic origin, the Franks worshiped deities that corresponded with the Norse peoples including Wuotan (Odin) and Freia (Freyja). Freia’s name translates to Lady, and she’s known as a goddess of paradox. She wages war in a frenzy, but also reigns over domains of love, sex, and seidr (a form of Norse magic).

Icovellauna: Goddess of the Springs

The ancient Gauls revered healing springs and believed healing spirits presided over the waters. These healing spring spirits became deified gods and goddesses, one was known as the goddess Icovellauna. Two temples in particular were built over springs and honored the goddess Icovellauna—the Le Sablon temple in Metz and the Altbachtal temple complex in Trier. Her name means “good fountain”. Because of her watch over the healing springs, she was a goddess of healing and was perhaps once a water nymph before being deified.

Nerthus: Germanic French Fertility Goddess

Yet another Germanic deity likely worshiped by the Franks is Nerthus. We know of this through Tacitus’ writings. Interestingly, Nerthus is considered a fertility earth goddess, yet her home or sacred place was believed to be a secret island somewhere in the ocean. Some scholars believe her name actually translates to earth, and she was well-known as the lady of the wagon procession. The ancient Germanic people carted her image around and supposedly drown sacrifices to her in her sacred lake.

Melusine: The Serpentine Lady

Melusine is a figure in French folklore who was once a goddess associated with wells and rivers. She was the daughter of a fairy woman and mortal king. Moreover, in one legend, Melusine lived on the Isle of Avalon until she married a mortal. Her husband defied her and referred to her as a “serpent” in court. Then in her anger, Melusine transformed into a dragon and flew off. The concept of Melusine as a shapeshifter demonstrates the likelihood she was once a guardian spirit of place (genius loci). The name Melusine features in folklore all over Europe but is most prevalent in France.

Melusine was the french dragon goddess of the well.
Melusine was a figure in French folklore but might’ve once been a dragon goddess.

Nantosuelta: Ancient French Earth Goddess

Nantosuelta is a unique goddess and deity from ancient Gaul. She manifests as a bright woman with long golden hair, holding a staff with a bee’s hive at the end. She lived in a round home, similar to the hills of the Tuatha de Dannan. Her cult was centered in what is today Northern France, particularly near modern Metz. Her sacred animal, the raven, accompanies her in many altar reliefs from the Roman time period. Scholars believe her name translates to “sun-drenched valley”, hence making her not just an earth goddess but also a goddess of the sun. She brings fertility and abundance.

Sequana & Sirona: Healing French Goddesses

Sequana is an ancient Gaulish goddess who was venerated at the Seine River and at the Springs of the Seine in a valley north of Dijon. She was the matron goddess of the Sequani tribe, one of the tribes of the Celtic Gauls who lived in France and Switzerland, respectively. At Sequana’s springs, many artifacts have been discovered that were offerings made to her in return for healing. It was customary to bring metal sculptures of whatever body part was in need of healing—limbs, eyes, etc. These were offered in return for healing, as well as fruit, meats, wine, etc. Sirona was also a goddess of healing springs and is depicted with a snake and eggs (both symbols of healing). She was venerated in France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and Luxembourg. Sirona’s cult permeated the Triveri tribe.

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6 thoughts on “Forgotten Ancient French Goddesses from the Gaulish-Celtic Pantheon

  1. The Celts didn’t really have a pantheonic structure divided by “functions” the way we falsely imagine the Greeks and Romans; instead, Celtic religion revolved around a tribal Earth-Mother goddess of sovereignty (known by a different name depending on the tribe at hand) and a chieftain-god associated with the sun/ sky/ heavens/ thunder and the underworld (and he was also known by a different name). Within Irish literature, the various names for the gods and goddesses were often interchangeable with each other. Therefore, the name of The Morrighan was attributed to Anu (the Mother Goddess) as well as to Baby, and also to Eire (the personification of Ireland itself). Similar concepts to this were known amongst the Greeks and the Egyptians, which are astonishingly similar to the “Wiccan” concept that “All gods are one god and all goddesses are one goddess.” For more about the latter I recommend the book, “The Pagan Heart of the West,” which was the Ph.D dissertation of the late scholar (and my dear friend) Randy P. Conner and Dr. Dáithí Ó hÓgáin’s book, “The Sacred Isle: Belief & Religion in Pre-Christian Ireland.”

  2. Melusine in particular is fascinating as she is said to be an ancestor to the entire British family (Plantagenets), of which I am distantly related through the De Mowbray line. Love the idea of a Fae bloodline. Sehr Interessant! We can thank her for the stories of Robin hood, the boys in the tower and the 2 accused royal witches Elizabeth Woodville, Jaquetta of Luxembourg and the war of the roses ect. It is believed when her descendants die they are met by her weeping in the form of either a woman or dragon. Not only that but she’s said to be a “vouivre”. A being associated with fault lines (Earthquake lore is cool stuff btw), underwater streams, telluric currents and more. Some trace certain sites of Black Madonna worship to her.

  3. YES!
    Having all of my ancestors starting up from my grandparents come from Europe, I have a lot of ancestors from Ireland, 1 from Scotland, A LOT from England, Germany, and from France, I have been interested in everything Celtic! In your article, 10 Lesser Known Celtic Deities, I found one of them that it now one of my deities: Sequana. I was looking for an article about her, and finally found this. It may not be fully about her, but this has more info. There is a creek that dries out in the summer next to my house, so I put her outdoor altar as close as possible to it. I am not certain how many of my ancestors were pagans, but I do believe that atleast one of my ancestors worshiped her. I am excited to learn more about my deity! Thanks for the great article!
    Blessed be,

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