The Bath pendant

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The Bath pendant

Postby D Rivers on June 3rd, 2012, 11:14 am

http://www.arbre-celtique.com/encyclope ... h-4413.htm

The Bath pendant is the only known inscription in the Ancient British language. It has tormented me ever since I've known about it, striving to work out what on earth it could mean. Now I think I've cracked it - or a good half of it anyway!

adixsouī dēuīnā deiedā, andagin Uindiorīxs cū amun. aī!

"Little goddess of the day in the Far-Below! I, Windiorix, as a dog loved a bad woman. (?)Speak!"

The last two letters are a mystery. My guess is they are an abbreviation of a standard formula, a bit like Latin "DM" for "dīs manibus" on gravestones. But what they might actually stand for is beyond me. Alternatively, there is a Latin verb "aīre" meaning "say, agree"; it may have had an Ancient British cognate. "aī!" would then be an imperative - "speak!" Frustration at the lack of interest of the divine in human affairs seems to go back a long way.

"Little goddess (dēuīnā) of the day (deiedā) in the far-below (ad-ixsowī)" may offer a precious insight into Ancient British mythology, which is why I posted it in this forum. The sacred spring at Bath was dedicated to the goddess Sūlī, equated by the Romans with Minerva. Her name means "Sun", so she presumably fulfilled the Indo-European role of the dawn-goddess. This explains her epithet here of "Deiedā". Harder to explain is why she is associated with the sacred spring and the Underworld - an apparent contradiction, which this inscription makes clear the writer was fully aware of. The explanation I think is simple; every day, the sun rises in the sky. Every night, it passes back beneath the earth to rise again in the morning. The sun-goddess passes through the Underworld of night on her journey back to the Upperworld of day. Perhaps she is visiting her father Belgīos the Great from whose head she was born, who was locked away in the Underworld after being overthrown by his grandson Lugus. Perhaps he is only biding his time, gathering his strength for another attempt to overthrow the world - the Great Serpent is only sleeping...
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Re: The Bath pendant

Postby Neula H on June 4th, 2012, 6:00 am

Hi,

Thank you for posting this, very interesting indeed! I've never seen this defixio. Is there anything to date it? I had a quick look but can't see it referred to anywhere else.

Just a thought from the top of my head which I'm sure will be proved wrong in a hundred ways...;)

It's not necessarily a contradiction that the Dawn goddess can be associated with the land of the dead.

The Celtic religions don't separate the underworld and the sky in the same dualistic way as the classicals. for example, Lugh is lord of light but is also made king of the underworld, called The Dark, the land of the dead, or the land of the living. Celtic imagery does put the sky and earth in opposition, for example the sky-warrior columns found across Europe depict a usually mounted warrior bearing a wheel or cross - symbol of the sun - trampling a Chthonic snake monster underfoot (which was later reborn as St George the Red Cross Knight trampling the snake of paganism under the hooves of his white charger), but often the imagery links the two - the solar wheels are found on tombstones and springs, and the sky and the earth seem more intrinsically bound than they are in Classical religion.

I would venture that the sun god is also the lord of the underworld, and as souls can be reborn in Celtic belief the underworld is not just a place of darkness but also the beginning of life, hence the understanding in Celtic mythology that Celts come from the Underworld.
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Re: The Bath pendant

Postby D Rivers on June 4th, 2012, 3:08 pm

I did say it was only an "apparent" contradiction... ;)

I agree with you, it is something else I have noticed. There is an opposition to be made between Earth and Sky, but at the same time there is a big overlap. Lugus is as you say the perfect example: his mother and father are both children of both "Saturn"/Great Serpent-figure (chthonic), but he himself is most closely associated with flight (spear, sling, birds).

I would venture that the sun god is also the lord of the underworld


... that's pretty daring even by my standards! :P

and as souls can be reborn in Celtic belief the underworld is not just a place of darkness but also the beginning of life, hence the understanding in Celtic mythology that Celts come from the Underworld.


Caesar says the Gauls believed they were descended from Dis Pater, and Nennius tells us the Britons believed they were descended from Saturn. Dis Pater is interesting, because this most clearly underlines the blurry line between sky and earth; his name is linguistically identical to Jupiter, who is of course a sky-god as opposed to Dis who is chthonic. The one god has been bifurcated - why? Clearly, because he had two roles which were perceived as conflicting.

Nennius's precious comment allows us to link Dis Pater with Saturn - we can look for the similar traits between the two in order to find precisely what traits we should be looking for in the celtic god equated with those two Roman ones. I believe the confusion arises because Zeus actually has absorbed certain traits that ought to belong to his father - Minerva's birth from his forehead, Sūlī's birth from "Saturn's"/Balor's. I think that Zeus/Jupiter should technically be in the place of Cronus/Saturn - they are old gods. They were once sky-gods (*dyeus phter "Day Father"), but they are then imprisoned underground by the new gods. In other mythologies, a different solution to the same apparent contradiction was found; the Great Serpent-figure Vrtra/Jormungandr was completely separated from the actual gods, and slain by Indra who takes on the role of Dyeus Phter. The problem is that Dyeus Phter is the son of Sky-father and Earth-mother - so he has characteristics of both.

This is really fascinating stuff, but I don't think I'm being very clear. :p Point is, I think the Great Serpent/Balor/Beli as the father of the gods was considered to be the ancestor of all humans BEFORE he was relegated to the Underworld after his defeat by Lugus. It's interesting you call him a sun-god - Gronw (the Welsh Balor) had the epithet "Pebr" which means "Radiant". I make him the father of the sun in the same way as Zeus is the father of Athena - she is born from his head, just as Balor's eye (OI: suil) is knocked from his head and his eye is the sun-goddess (AB: sūl). Interestingly, in Gaul, the god Belenos seems to have been particularly associated with eyes as well according to wiki... should we liken Belenos to Beli and Balor again despite the absence of etymological links? His name does mean "The Radiant" just like Gronw Pebr's.

If Belenos = Gronw Pebr = Balor = chthonic Great Serpent - then actually, paradoxically, it all makes perfect sense!!!
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Re: The Bath pendant

Postby Dru Durman on June 4th, 2012, 3:29 pm

Wow! I was wondering whether maybe Belenos was an alternative name/title for Lugos (Lugos - the Shining One', Belenos 'The Radiant', the way that Odin has many monikers, like All-Father, Terror, Father of Victory etc..), but linking him to Balor makes a strange sense too... Awesome! So where is the reference to Balor/Belenos' eye becoming Sulis, or is this your speculation and development of other cultures' myths to estimate a possible story for the 'Celtic' deities? (That's not meant to sound derogatory, I think your theories make alot of sense!)
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Re: The Bath pendant

Postby D Rivers on June 4th, 2012, 3:44 pm

So where is the reference to Balor/Belenos' eye becoming Sulis, or is this your speculation and development of other cultures' myths to estimate a possible story for the 'Celtic' deities?


The Old Irish word "suil" means eye. This word is linguistically identical to the name of Sulis Minerva. This word "sūl" in turn is again linguistically identical to Latin "sōl" - Sūl must be a sun-goddess, and this word "deiedā" on the pendant reinforces that. Minerva, or at least Athena, according to normal Greek mythology was born fully-armed from the head of her father Zeus. This is a reconstructed P-IE mytheme, the dawn-goddess freed from the rock-head by the chief sky-god. Minerva is a goddess of wisdom. The root *wid in P-IE means both to know and to see, there is no distinction. So wisdom = clear-thinking = clear-seeing = sunny day.

Zeus is Dīs Pater, that is PIE *Dyeus Phter, who is in my interpretation identical to the Great Serpent, an apparent contradiction of roles which most mythologies attempted to distinguish; so sky-lord Jupiter =/= earth-lord Dis Pater, indeed Zeus himself battles the Typhon-Serpent. This Great Serpent role is fulfilled in Irish mythology by Balor - he is a giant, and the Fomoire are serpentine. And what comes out of Balor's head? His eye, freed by Lugus with his spear. Lugus is thus the sky-god who frees the dawn-goddess; by comparison we may suppose his spear is a lightning bolt. Think also of Lleu taking the form of an eagle (= Jupiter, Zeus); or his cycle of rebirth - the sky-god in other mythologies is initially defeated at the hands of the serpent but then he returns (eg Hittite, Greek), but few remember the rebirth aspect.

So much of this myth I am now practically certain of. The difficulties that are still only partially or possibly resolved are:

1) naming Balor/Gronw/Great Serpent. I have previously tried *Belgios... now it looks like I shall use Belenos - or in Britain, Belinos/Belīnos. Clearly Welsh Beli should still be involved - shame about that puzzling missing "n". However, "Beli" is very hard to explain etymologically from anything at all (*Belgios should give **Bely really) so perhaps it is corrupted...
2) the name of Lugus's mother who is locked away in the tower. Arianrhod/Goewin/Tailtiu... I can't work it out. I can't even work out what kind of goddess she is. It occurred to me she might be the cow-goddess - the New Gods and the Titans are fighting over a magic cow in the Irish story shortly after Balor takes her away and locks her up...? Showing that the cow-goddess is basically virginal would help - I am thinking of Europa in Greek mythology; this would then make a stronger parallel with Goewin/Arianrhod.
3) How the details about Lugus's growing up with Gwydion fit it. They can't have been going back and forth at will to a prison on an island after Balor knew something was up, surely. Perhaps these anecdotes were added later...?
4) Why was Gaulish Belenos associated with Apollo... apart from the eye connection?
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Re: The Bath pendant

Postby Dru Durman on June 4th, 2012, 3:54 pm

Cool...
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Re: The Bath pendant

Postby Neula H on June 5th, 2012, 4:42 am

VERY cool! *razz*
There is so much in what you say and it's all very interesting, sadly I have to do some work today but I'll try and to read and digest it properly later.

When I say that the sun god is also the god of the underworld, I'm going on the Irish myths where Lugh after he is recognised as Amazing Multi-tasking Man is made "lord of The Dark, the land of the Dead that is also called the land of the Living." The sun god I mean in this instance is Lugh, not Balor; although I totally agree with your interpretation of him (Balor) as the old, deposed sun god. Personally I think Balor's eye being winched open with block and tackle on the battlefield is the most striking image in the invasion myths.

My vague and unscholarly theory is based on the idea that in the invasion myths the successive waves of people always come from 'the west' or 'spain', both euphemisms for the land of the dead, and the Celts claiming descent from Dis Pater is that its a literal interpretation of the doctrine of the transmogrification of the soul misunderstood by classical commentators - a bit like how the word 'Yeti' means 'that thing over there'.

Reading the etymology of the word 'Wid' I made the connection that the word 'Widdershins' means 'against reason' or against the sun, as in moving counter-clockwise we are also moving counter to the direction of the sun, clocks having evolved from sundials. (Interesting sidebar. I had always wondered.)
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Re: The Bath pendant

Postby Ettore Viscontini on June 5th, 2012, 5:09 am

Very cool Lads O_O

D, what about Damona ('the Great Cow')?
They fought disunited and they joined the fate of defeat
if they had been inseparable would be insurmountable
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Re: The Bath pendant

Postby Neula H on June 5th, 2012, 6:21 am

...And I just realised that I completely mis-remembered the Lugh story. He is fostered in the land of the dead until he he is grown, not made king of it when he is grown.

Stupid memory.
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Re: The Bath pendant

Postby D Rivers on June 5th, 2012, 11:22 am

I don't see Lugus as a sun-god. There's no link. I think the sun-god per se has been lost in Atlanto-Celtic mythology - if he even existed at the Proto-IE level - and that is why the goddess who is in other mythologies just the dawn-goddess becomes in the Ancient British language "Sūlī" - "the Sun". In his sky-god aspect, I think Lugus is more the Thunderer type, because of the comparative mythology: the eagle, the freeing of the dawn-goddess = Thunderer's role.

My vague and unscholarly theory is based on the idea that in the invasion myths the successive waves of people always come from 'the west' or 'spain', both euphemisms for the land of the dead, and the Celts claiming descent from Dis Pater is that its a literal interpretation of the doctrine of the transmogrification of the soul misunderstood by classical commentators - a bit like how the word 'Yeti' means 'that thing over there'.


Nice idea! I think it's the North that is normally linked with "death" though - North/deep/left/sinister and all that.

I think the whole invasions thing is nonsense. Caesar tells us the inland Britons held that they were indigenous. The name "Partholon" is just an Irish corruption of Bartholomew - look at that initial P, how Q-celtic is that? :P I think the invasions narrative (and it is a narrative, not a tradition) was just invented to try and bring in some of the classical splendour of Aeneas and such like - and, maybe, folk-memories of Near Eastern origins; possibly via Spain, or Spain may have been put in later by the mediaeval writers who knew a bit more about geography and had to work out how to reconcile the stories with reality...?

Of perhaps more interest is how the House of Danu is associated with the South (*dexsowa - from the same root as *dagos "good") and the House of Math(ie Beli) with the North. If South = right = righteous, then North = left = sinister. All the interpretations of the symbolology of directions are really fascinating in my view although I know barely anything about them. :P But anyway, North also = deep. Deep = underground = cave = earth mother's womb = rebirth. So I would say North rather than West is the "death" direction...

There is the story of the Gaulish fishermen in Brittany who row the dead out to sea. And if you go to sea from Northern Gaul, which direction are you pointing in...? When Odysseus wants to visit his father in the Underworld, he sails to Oceanus. Oceanus was both West and North in the Greek mindset; don't forget they thought Spain lay at a funny angle even at a much later time. So if Odysseus came round to the Pillars of Hercules, for Homer he was more or less facing North... I also read something in Virgil's description of the Underworld during my Latin exam today that made me think of North = deep. :P Talking about death, he makes a simile about migrating birds; they come from "gurgite ab alto" in order to find sunnier climes when driven by the "frigidus annus". In the cold of the year (frigidus annus), birds fly South from Northern Europe to Southern. "gurgite ab alto" means "from the deep ocean". Whether Virgil actually precisely intended this meaning or not, it still clearly shows that North = deep; and North is also where the "Titan" House in the Welsh myth comes from. Titans = Fomoire = *Womorioi = Under-Sea-People = deep.

Interesting that an old Atlanto-Celtic word for "the world" also means "deep" - *dubnos. Does this mean that the people who brought Atlanto-Celtic languages came from the South, and moving into the North they were moving into "The Deep" - later they settled and so "The Deep" became their world - "The World". (cf. shift of meaning Albiū "Britain" > elfydd "world").
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Re: The Bath pendant

Postby Alex Hovorka on June 5th, 2012, 12:59 pm

D Rivers, have you ever looked at Slavic mythology? Their gods are speculated to be very close to the PIE pantheon. With the cross cultural links you're making (which are pretty awesome) you might find it useful. Dazbog is clearly a sun god (from what I can tell) in Slavic mythology.

I read somewhere that Lugus was associated with the sun because he is the "long arm". This was linked to the rays of the sun or something. I don't know if anybody else has come across this before.
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Re: The Bath pendant

Postby D Rivers on June 5th, 2012, 1:33 pm

D Rivers, have you ever looked at Slavic mythology? Their gods are speculated to be very close to the PIE pantheon. With the cross cultural links you're making (which are pretty awesome) you might find it useful. Dazbog is clearly a sun god (from what I can tell) in Slavic mythology.


Baltic - I have, but not in detail. Slavic, not really. My overall impression is that on the whole there isn't very much left, and it requires just as much reconstruction as Atlanto-Celtic before it can be really used for comparison... for this myth in particular, I don't remember finding very much of use... although I do recall the name "Velinas" as the Lithuanian name for a chthonic deity... whether this is cognate with Belenos or not should be worth looking into!

I read somewhere that Lugus was associated with the sun because he is the "long arm". This was linked to the rays of the sun or something. I don't know if anybody else has come across this before.


I think there are lots of interpretations. I read somewhere that the "long arm" represents kingly power; Lugus does become chief god after overthrowing Saturn(/?Belinos), although I don't know what happened to Noudonts... I am thinking of a parallel for this interpretation in Tolkien actually: "Saruman's arm will have grown long indeed if he thinks he can reach us here!" Of course, possibly this is just a reflection that he subscribed to a particular interpretation of the same epithet we're discussing - or, equally possibly, the same phrase turns up in Anglo-Saxon or Norse texts with this meaning...
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Re: The Bath pendant

Postby Dru Durman on June 5th, 2012, 5:22 pm

How do you stand on Nodens/Nuadha being cognate with Toutatis? I've heard of Toutatis (presumably the god of the tribe/people) compared to Tyr of Norse mythology. Both Tyr and Nuadha lose a hand. Could it be the representation of the old pre-'Celtic' god of the tribe being demoted in favour of Lugos, but because he's 'one of the good guys' his demotion is explained by a maiming that makes him unfit to rule? Just a theory I've had bouncing around for a while, can't recall if I've already raised it on here.
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Re: The Bath pendant

Postby D Rivers on June 6th, 2012, 8:01 am

I hadn't heard that theory I'm afraid so I can't really comment. I do think that there is no one-to-one correspondence between Atlanto-Celtic and Germanic deities. The Germanic pantheon as we know it, almost purely from the Norse, has been greatly simplified, they've only got about ten gods; so some gods may have assimilated roles from other gods who later disappeared from the pantheon. Norse Tyr is Anglo-Saxon Tiw (as in Tuesday), and both come from Proto-Germanic *Teiwaz < PIE *Deiwos ~ *Dyeus Phter. Whilst as I say there is no one-to-one correspondence... this does make another example of Dyeus Phter being the sky-god who battles the Great Serpent...

myself wrote:Zeus is Dīs Pater, that is PIE *Dyeus Phter, who is in my interpretation identical to the Great Serpent, an apparent contradiction of roles which most mythologies attempted to distinguish; so sky-lord Jupiter =/= earth-lord Dis Pater, indeed Zeus himself battles the Typhon-Serpent.


I possibly overstepped here. Dīs Pater is an isolated example of a linguistic Dyeus Phter becoming chthonic... perhaps it is better to think of this as a Roman innovation than an ancient survival.

myself wrote:Lleu taking the form of an eagle (= Jupiter, Zeus); or his cycle of rebirth - the sky-god in other mythologies is initially defeated at the hands of the serpent but then he returns (eg Hittite, Greek), but few remember the rebirth aspect.


Lugus does seem to have aspects of Dyeus Phter - but, he is also very different. Perhaps Dyeus Phter was slain by the serpent and then reborn as a different god - Lugus...?

I have wondered before if Noudonđ was not a previous incarnation of Lugus - silverhand reborn as longarm...? I do quite like your idea though that Noudonđ may have been a pre-AC god - however he still must be IE.

I have basically just put Noudonđ as leader of the Danans like in the Irish version in my reconstruction of the myth... I think for the most part I'm inclined to leave him there, Dyeus Phter or not.
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Re: The Bath pendant

Postby Alex Hovorka on June 6th, 2012, 11:56 am

Just a quick wikipedia search on Slavic mythology brings up quite a bit of information. It looks like there is quite a few ancient and medieval sources referring to ancient Slavic paganism and also folklore parallels.
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Re: The Bath pendant

Postby Neula H on June 8th, 2012, 4:57 am

D Rivers,

You're right, there is no evidence that Lugh is a sun god and yes, I think that Celtic culture had moved away from the animism of earlier religions, but like you say these hangovers exist, the archetypes are embedded deep in culture and subconscious.

I equate Lugh with the sun because firstly he is described variously as bright, shining and radiant; secondly he makes the transition from the underworld to his omnipotent manhood like the sun which dies and traverses the underworld before being reborn every day; thirdly because he is associated with the phallic imagery of the long arm and the spear, and the sun in IE mythology is identified as masculine; and finally because he is the son of Balor (sun god, we agree?) and father of Cuchulain (the hero light shines from his forehead, he lives a short life of incandescent violence).

And on the 'North vs. West' point I'm going to have to beg to differ with you; although the only reference I can pull from the top of my head is the end of LOTR (well, if you will start using Tolkein as source material ;P) and the ancient Egyptians.
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