Her name sounds like “January,” and this Celtic goddess may well have been syncretized with the Roman god Janus after whom the month is named. Her shrine was located near Beire-le-Chatel in Burgundy, France.Richard Stillwell notes that the sanctuary’s “Walls were razed,” which is another way of saying that the Christians were particularly thorough in their destruction of this temple complex. From the multiple pieces of statues among the rubble, it looks like many deities were worshiped, and that the walls were erected to partition outdoor shrines.There are two intact inscriptions, one to Ianauria and another to the Matrones. Ianauria’s dedication depicts a curly-haired child playing the pipes. Votive offerings to a Celtic equivalent of the Roman god Mars were often statues of children holding doves. The Celtic Mars deity is unrelated to the martial aspect of Roman Mars, and could possibly be related to Mars as a nurturing bird deity. See my earlier article on Mars as the Roman woodpecker god.There were at least four large doves at the Beire-le-Chatel complex. The Celts, like the people in the pre-Indo-European cultures they assimilated, were primarily animal worshipers, with anthropomorphism of animal deities a by-product of Greco-Roman influence. Continental Celts probably worshiped a dove deity that became romanized as Mars or a feminine version of Janus. Since Turtledoves are usually conceptualized in pairs, it’s interesting that the god Mars is the father of twins and Janus has two faces. Note from the video below that the simple turr turr turr of the Turtledove would be easy to replicate on even a primitive flute.SourcesGreen, Miranda. Animals in Celtic Life and Myth. London: Routledge, 1992.Stillwell, Richard. The Princeton Encylopedia of Classical Sites. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976. Accessed at http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0006:entry=beire-le-chatel
Animal divinity can take many forms.A living animal can literally be a god or goddess. An example of this would be the crocodile Petesuchos, who lived at the temple to the Egyptian god Sebek. Petesuchos wore jewelry, lived a pampered existence and was considered the literal offspring of Sebek, elevated above the ordinary crocodile who might be killed for meat or safety.A specific animal can also be a living omen or message from a deity. The white buffalo calf Miracle, born on a Wisconsin farm, was seen as a message from White Buffalo Calf Woman of positive and momentous changes. Honoring Miracle honored the blessings and prophecy of White Buffalo Calf Woman. Miracle also shows how an animal can embody divinity in more than one way, as Miracle was often propitiated with gifts, sometimes highly valued gifts such as military medals, as if she were an actual goddess like Petesuchos (although not all Plains Indians who revered Miracle viewed her in this way).An animal species might be sacred to a particular deity, and thus all members of this species might be treated with deference out of reverence for that deity. An example of this would be the dog, who is sacred to the goddess Nehalennia and usually pictured as her companion.An animal can be considered sacred for her contribution to human life, for her symbology, or for her pivotal role in myth. The cow is given special status by Hindus for her gift of milk. In the 1980’s thousands of school children wrote the Ohio State Legislature protesting a proposal to allow dove hunting, arguing that it would be killing peace. Lenape Indians were successful in getting some limitations placed on groundhog killing in Pennsylvania, due to the significance of the animal in creation stories.Some deities of strong significance to humans are animal gods or goddesses. In his earliest known form of worship, Apollo is a mouse god. His temple in Tenedos housed hundreds or perhaps thousands of mice, who were not considered gods in their own right but were pampered as a favor to Apollo. The mice had a divine function as omens as well, with large litters presaging economic prosperity. Special priestesses were employed to interpret oracles from the mouse god. The goddess Athena typifies many deities of Old Europe by having twin animal forms of earth creature (snake) and sky creature (owl).Every animal has its own deity. Modern pagans refer to the chief deities of plant and animal species as devas, a word borrowed from Sanskrit which means “god.” In appealing to the deity of an animal which does not have a recognized cult, the animal “deva” will be invoked. Alternatively, when petitioning a specific animal colony, the “queen,” who is leader of that particular family, can also be invoked. It is also possible to appeal en masse to a group of animals, praying to the animals in their collective spirit, although some would quibble that this is the same as appealing to an animal deva.Closely related to an animal deity, but not exactly the same thing, is an animal familiar. A familiar is a being who helps a priestess with her magic. The familiar can be an incarnate living creature or a discarnate being who exists only in spirit, but most often she is a living animal. There is much that I can say about the animal familiar, and whole books have been written on the subject, so I will talk about familiars in a later post.
How much do you know about the winged companions of the Goddess? If you’ve been following this blog for awhile you’ll recognize many of these. Match the bird in the left column with the European or Middle Eastern goddess (or god) she is frequently associated with.
Answers are here.Feel free to add other goddess and god associations for these birds in the comments.