Sunday, April 13, 2008

Goddesses restored to memory

Far away from home? Longing for loved ones so far away? The weather damp, cold and miserable? I guess this is how many Romans must have felt after traveling to the North of England to take up an official post. Yet their longing for home and the warmth of the mediterranean has left us intriguing insights into their devotion to Goddesses in Brighid's Isles.

There is ample evidence that Roman officials took to local Goddesses and received many graces from them. At Arbeia, in the far north-east of England, a Roman called Congenniccus received blessings from the Goddess Brigantia and in thanksgiving set up an altar with the inscription,
To the sacred Goddess Brigantia Congenniccus willingly fulfilled his vow. This altar, pictured above, is one of many now in the Arbeia Museum.

The blessings these Roman's received from Goddesses and their desire to give thanks by setting up a stone altar is bringing to memory Goddesses who otherwise would have been long forgotten. The Goddess Verbeia in Wharfedale is a good example. Now there is news of two more Goddesses restored to memory. At the Roman settlement of Mamuciam (which means breast shaped hill) in Manchester archaeologists have just unearthed a 2,000 year old altar in pristine condition. It is inscribed,
To the Mother Goddesses Hananeftis and Ollototis, Aelius Victor willingly and deservedly fulfils a vow.

It makes me wonder what blessings and graces Aelius Victor received from these Goddesses at the breast shaped hill. Whatever the blessings we should be thankful to Aelius Victor for fulfilling his vow. For 2,000 years later these Mother Goddesses Hananeftis and Ollototis have been restored to our memory. (Inscriptions to Ollototis have also been found at Binchester in the north east of England.)

This find comes less than five years after the rediscovery of the Goddess Senua in Hertfordshire. Treasures from her shrine and ritual spring were carefully hidden in the late 3rd century ce at a time when pagan temples were being destroyed.  One Servandus from Spain gave thanks for blessings received  on a plaque inscribed, Servandus Hispani willingly fulfilled his vow to the Goddess. At the time Senua's name was revealed Ralph Jackson, Roman Curator at the British Museum, said, "It was an extraordinary moment, like seeing Her reborn before my eyes.