MAPONOS

 

{Re-blogged from DUN BRYTHON:}

Gogyfarch Vabon o arall vro
-*-
Call upon Mabon from the Other Realm

(Book of Taliesin : 38)

Matrona Gaul goddess alt
Matrona with Child

Divine Son of Divine Mother, taken at three nights old into the Otherworld but brought back out of the darkness into the light of this world. Playing the Harp of Time ~>  he brings the music of the world out of silence into the sights and sounds of Summer. His is the bright step into the eternal present of Now, the act of Being, the vitality of youth grown to manhood. He may come as a hunter decked in leaves with a sheaf of arrows to inspire a bard, as the Welsh poet Henry Vaughan relates (~>).

In the tale of Culhwch and Olwen he is Mabon, released from the dungeon of Caer Loyw to join Arthur and his men to hunt Twrch Trwyth. He is simultaneously the Divine Youth, the ever-young, and one whom only the most ancient of the ancient creatures of the world can remember. In the Mabinogi tales he is Pryderi, taken from his mother Rhiannon as a baby and brought back by Teyrnon, then taken again as an adult and brought back by Manawydan. These stories enact on the plane of human narrative the mythology of Maponos moving between Time and Not-Time, between Light and Darkness, between Music and Silence, between Thisworld and Annwn.

Iron Age coin from Sussex showing a horse and a lyre

He is the Son of the Horse Goddess who plucks the strings the harp or the lyre as he twangs the string of his bow to bring inspiration or show the way for a seeker after the mysteries. As Mabon he takes the razor from between the ears of the boar Twrch Trwyth for the giant Ysbadadden to be shaved so Culhwch can wed Olwen. As Pryderi he hunts a shining white boar which leads him into an otherworld caer. Manawydan – ‘wise of counsel’ – does not follow but finds a way to bring him back. These then reflect the rites of departure and beckoning as we welcome him once more onto the path of discovery, of life, and all its mysteries which are his to reveal.

So he may walk the plains of Summer in our world, bringing it alive with each vibration of the strings of his harp, or he may be sought for through a seer, an awenydd or one who walks the paths between the worlds. An inscription in Gaulish found in a sacred spring at Chamelières calls upon him thus:

Maponos of the Deep, Great God
I come to you with this plea:
Bring the powers of the Otherworld
To inspire those who are before thee.

Chameliere
Lead tablet with Gaulish inscription to MAPONOS from Chamelières

He may come, once again, into the world to inspire us, to touch the strings of his harp riding the particles of silence behind him as they touch the waves of sound that rush through the world like the song of the Birds of Rhiannon over the waves of the sea and on every zephyr that touches the trees of the world. So we shape these words to call upon him:

Maponos : we sense your call
From the silence of the Deeps beyond our world

Maponos : Matrona remembers her child
Whom we bring to her with this wish for your coming

Maponos : You are the seed of Summer
Dwelling in darkness and springing into light

Maponos : we hear your harp-song
As the Sun rides high in the Midsummer sky.


The Gaulish text of the Chamelières Tablet is given in The Celtic Heroic Age ed. John Koch & John Carey (Aberysywyth, 2003) where a word by word interpretation is also given. The four-line verse above is based on that.
Other References:
Culhwch ac Olwen : Rachel Bromwich a Simon Evans (Cardiff, 1997)
Pedeir Keinc y Mabinogi : Ifor Williams (Cardiff, 1978)

Gods and Goddesses of the Treveri

On a wall in the Museum in Trier is this relief of Epona

Epona

I have long known about it from books, and the fact that it was part of a shrine to Epona in the sacred precinct of the Roman town, where sites of worship are thought to have continued from pre-Roman Gaul. It would then have been in the territory of the Treveri, a tribe who inhabited an area around the Moselle valley west of the Rhine, overlapping current borders between Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg. I recently managed to find my way to the town to view the relief for myself. It is located in a room in the Museum dedicated to representations of Roman and Celtic deities. After spending some time with Epona, I turned my attention to some of the other gods depicted here.


Many were Roman and Mercury predominates in the particular way he does in Gaul. On one large stone column he is shown on one face together with a female figure who is much worn away but is identified as Rosmerta. On another face of the same column is the figure of Esus apparently using an axe to cut a (willow?) tree in the crown of which there are three birds (cranes or egrets?) and the head of a bull. Parts of this face of the column are also much worn away so the imagery is not clear, but it has been taken to be the same scene as on another monument in Paris where a bull with three cranes has the inscription ‘Tarvos-Trigaranus’ (‘Bull with Three Cranes’) and where Esus is also represented. These are tantalising survivals of the religious imagery of Gaul filtered through Roman representations but remaining mysterious as to their significance.

ESUS

Next to this column there is also a statue of Sirona, a goddess with a snake around her arm and pointing to what appear to be two eggs in her other hand, one of them broken open:

SIRONA

 

 

 


This compelled my attention for some time. As Rosmerta is often paired with a god the Romans equated with Mercury (Lugus?), so Sirona is similarly often paired with Apollo (Maponos?). I have often pondered the significance of this transference of male god names to fit Roman ‘equivalents’ while the female gods retain their native names. Sirona is represented alone here and has been identified as a goddess of fertility and of healing because of her iconography and the location of shrines by healing springs. That snake winding around her arm might have those associations but also draws attention to those same mysteries of significance which beckon from behind the veil of romanised representation and the views of modern interpreters.

The pagan shrines in the sacred precinct in Trier continued to be used for some time after the establishment of christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. They were largely destroyed after the suppression of paganism by the emperor Gratian late in the 4th century. But their survival until then suggests a continuing veneration of the native gods by the descendants of the Treveri, and the neighbouring Mediomatrici, in this part of Gaul.