Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Shining Charioteer

Righty then, as a commentator on the last blogasm asked; “who is the sun/cowherd in your cosmology?”

I mentioned that the Bull Sons of Taranis and their wives are the clouds. The Sun as I mentioned was formed from the eye of the first one – Dyeus - by Taranis at the making of the world and so isn't a god or goddess as such. To my mind the sun is borne aloft on/in a chariot driven by someone else. I should also point out that I don't actually believe these to be the case – we know what the sun is, where clouds come from and that the world was formed from by the accretion of dust and debris left over after the sun formed from hydrogen gas etc. This is all a mythic overlay of the world, a way of placing the gods within a framework, a tool with which to order and consider things.

So, the Shining Cowherd. Several gods are associated with Apollo from inscription and iconography. Grannus is a good candidate but not a deity with whom I have a connection. On the other hand, Belenus is also associated with Apollo and the name does mean 'shining one' (and also possibly 'henbane god' – for whatever that means and alludes too) and to me has a personal connection with healing springs, spas etc which are also known of as being connected with Grannus e.g Aquae granni in Germany.

Add into this the mention I have made before- prompted by Bo – that Belenus and Lugus were one and the same and that Lugus has some connection to harvests etc then it isn't too much of a stretch to consider that Lugus-Belenus is the solar charioteer to whom thanks are given at the harvest for a fine summer.

Something I came cross is mention of a 10 day festival to Grannus from an inscription:

NORIGIS F(ilius) VERG(obretus) AQV
NOCTIACIS GRANNI D(e) S(ua) P(ecunia) D(edit)
Translation: "The Vergobretus Postumus son of Dumnorix gave from his own money the Waters of Mars for the ten-night festival of Grannus"

Now presumably the Waters of Mars might be a drink of some sort – finding anything online is a pig as it brings up nothing but references to a Doctor Who special on last year. As to when this festival occurs – not a clue. But certainly something worth investigating at some point.


Deiniol said...

As Grannos is a deity I have a fairly close connection to, the Decamnoxtiacon Granni it something I celebrate. On my personal calendar, I have it on the ten days leading up to the final full moon before the harvest begins (I can't recall why, however- I think I pulled some clues from the Coligny calendar), but it might be relevant that "aqua martia" might not refer to "Waters of Mars" but "Waters of March", possibly indicating a March date for the festival?

Also, Maponos as the Shining Cowherd? I'm not convinced by the Lugus link: Lugus seems to be more of a cattle-raider than a cattle-herder.

Lee said...

raiding cattle still involves herding them to where you are taking them to :)

i dunno - this is still something i am formulating in my head and working on.

Deiniol said...

Yeeeees, but it doesn't really fit.

If we look at the surviving myths of Lugus (viz. those of Lleu and Lugh), we see bugger all in the way of cattle-herding: Lugh's only real association with cattle is totally tangential with the theft of Goibniu's cow. Accepting the idea that Cu Chulainn is an avatar/homologue of Lugh, we see plenty of cattle-raiding, but precious little in the way of herding and watching over them. The idea of herding being involved in raiding is somewhat facile: myths simply don't work like that, one cannot draw "logical" conclusions based on normal human activity.

Furthermore, the more I think about the Lugus-Belenos equation, the less I am convinced. I really do not think that there's a shred of evidence to equate the two deities: the name Llywelyn might well derive from *Lugubelenos, but that does not mean that Lugus and Belenos were "the same" deity, far from it: the only secure conclusion we can draw from the name is that someone in 3rd century Britain (ish) thought that the two names sounded good together. The philology isn't even wholly secure: the name could well mean "Oath of Belenos", not "Lugus-Belenos".

In Gaul we have attestations of both Lugus and Belenos, and the two deities were subject to very different instances of interpretatio romana: Belenos is securely identified with Apollo, while Lugus never is. Lugus is similarly identified with Mercury, while Belenos never is. This suggests to me that Lugus and Belenos were viewed as two entirely different deities, with little or no overlap.

For all that earnest scholars of the 19th century and enthusiatic druids of the 20th ascribed "solar attributes" to Lugh/Lleu/Lugus, I honestly can't see it myself. It's like this association of Mabon/Maponos with poetry and music: I have no idea where that comes from, but it seems as uneradicable from the druidic consciousness as the idea of bedsheets being an avant garde fashion statement.

I dislike pissing on anybody's chips, to borrow your own phrase, but if one assumes that the sun-god is the "divine herdsman" (as is suggested quite strongly by the comparative evidence), then I really think that assigning this role to Lugus is barking up the wrong tree. Lugus simply isn't a solar deity: as well as a lack of classical evidence, there's sod all in his mythology in the descendant traditions that might even suggest it.

(Also, where on earth does the Belenos-henbane association come from? I know that there's the obscure Welsh dialect word bele 'henbane', but there is no way that this could derive from "Belenos". The phonetic similarity is simple coincidence, which happens surprisingly often in linguistics.)

Lee said...

Deiniol: not sure about the henbane thing, I have seen it a few places now and not really given it much thought or worried myself over it. it just isnt something I have an urge to follow up on.

I think what we take out of this then is that the best fit for the job is a god whom I have no connection with and to be frank this isnt a problem at present, it is just something that has come to the fore following a question.

I will leave megli to debate the Lugus-Belenus thing :)

A bit of looking and Grannus does fit well into this role - maybe in the future if the need arises then I will delve into it a bit more.

Frenchie said...

Oops, sorry that my question provoked such controversy! I suppose it's a good thing in the end if it helps us come to some sort of consensus.

I'm inclined to agree with Deiniol about the whole Lugus Belenos debate. Your (plural - limitations of English...) suggestion of Maponos Grannos as the shining cowherd certainly fits in with my personal cosmology and UPG. I still like the 'sons of Taranis' thing for the clouds though ;)


Lee said...

Frenchie: not at all, that kind of the whole point of having people like this who can comment and clarify. Im not going to cry or have a hissy because Deiniol pointed out how my current proto-cosmology doesnt fit :)

If maponos or grannos fit better and are appropriate then when the time comes i will work them into things in a way that works for me and 'fits' for now it just isn't the time.

Bo said...

Hm...wasn't the 'oath' word *lugio-, not lugus? (therefore *lugiobelenos for 'oath [to] belenus)?

The suggestion about Lugubelenos is John Koch's...I still find is reasonable convincing, myself. (Especially given Llywarch <lugumarkos, presumably 'Lugus's horse' rather than 'horseoath'?)

Nellie said...

Lee ~ having read your new mythologies I have to say they are beautiful. What was your inspiration for their construction? Were they an intellectual pursuit or something else entirely?

I'm very much learning here so excuse any silly mistakes I make. The Rhiannon/Pryderi story of the Mabinogion is very much a Matrona/Maponus myth. Pryderi is called 'Gwri of the Golden Hair' making him a possible solar deity no? Plus the birth on May the first, a solar festival (and the following abuduction and rightful return I wonder is alluding to the winter darkness?)
Like I said please excuse any mistakes or misunderstandings on my part!

Lee said...


thanks :)

they are kind of both - the ideas and themes come from inspiration but also from looking inot Indo-European mythic themes. seeign as we know the Britons derive from a branch of the IE people we can use the other branches to reconstruct something akin to what was told here. It might not be accurate, but it is being somewhat faithful to the attempt.

gwri - solar? not sure... golden hair could be said to allude to corn for instance. He is one of those gods (if a god at all) pretty much lost.

Nellie said...;wap2

This is a forum that first got me thinking of Gwri as a solar deity. I have no idea how accurate this is as most of it I haven't had a chance to research yet (a few more hours in the day and I'd probably still say the same thing!)

Maybe I'll have to make time to properly look into what we actually do know about Gwri! :)

The myth construction is something I'd love to do but have never actually dared. I do really love the story and reasons for the otherworld descent, which is so prevelant in so many other myths.
The whole P.I.E body of information absolutely staggers me and has been one of my focus points of late. Any good books/websites etc that you would recommend?

Lee said...

Ok, well there is some of that info on that site i recognise and some i have problems with.

can i reccommend you pop over to and join up to the forums? I will be sure to get your membership approved as soon as i see it up there, it is far better to discuss these kinds of things and there are people there who can give you a much better description of what is wrong with sites like the one you linked to; proper Celtic linguists and all :)