Queer white trans woman, post-reconstructionist pagan, proudly part of Senobessus Bolgon. Bologobo eđđi nepos rix!
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@bruniaxildis

Developing a framing persona for reconstruction

There's been talk recently about how having a framing device, a narrative persona you can use as a coat rack to develop your own polytheist reconstruction with a strong sense of time and place. I happen to have done this in the past without knowing it was a common practice, so here's how I worked out my own. Maybe it'll help someone.

I got introduced to heathenry by Norse heathens, but I didn't want to be Norse-oriented. I reflexively want to be useful, and to me that means not doubling up on effort. I ended up wanting to worship a deity that wasn't getting any love.

There was plenty of choice, but I picked Viradectis because she was the closest 'obscure' Goddess to where I grew up, and because I knew her worshipper total sat at zero. She does have a few inscriptions on votive stones, but nothing that really gives a strong indicator of her personality.

That put me in the Tungri tribe, and I wanted to be able to fall back on Tacitus' Germania, so I picked 100 CE, around when it was written. However, I didn't want to limit myself entirely to that neck of the woods, so I went looking for a way to explore the faiths of neighboring places, and this is where I figured out the idea of constructing a persona.

I didn't want to commit to things if they weren't not needed, to avoid the feeling that I was roleplaying. In order to be able to roam, though, I understood that my persona should either be military or trade-based.

I ended up liking several deities of the neighboring Treveri, as well as Nehalennia, so I eventually opted for 'trader' since I wanted to able able to move outside of the warrior archetype. Of course, I could have gone with the warrior - the Treveri were soldiers too, and a lot of their deities have martial aspects. The deity I felt most attracted to was Lenus Mars, however, and I decided to use the trader frame to stop it from becoming too warlike.

Doing this research lead me to learn more about the Tungri themselves, and made me decide to place my frame-self into the Condrusi pagus, since Viradectis-worship was localized there and I still wanted to use it as a main anchor-point.

And the last thing I decided was gender - I'd been trying to take a gender-neutral optic before but I ended up seriously wanting to embrace a feminine point of view. I used to feel more ambivalent about embracing the persona, but I started wondering about how virtually all the deities I gave cult to were coded male. I still give cult to, say, Lenus Mars, but I involve Ancamna as well, and my focus is more on divine couples.

Strictly speaking, the framing self doesn't make sense: the Condrusi were Celts not Germanic, and there's no real attestation of 'woman traders' of the kind I envisioned. But I felt out every step of the way and ended up with something internally coherent and suited to my needs. These days, I've gone a little beyond the frame but it served me very well, and when I want to recenter my beliefs, it helps to meditate on it.

A Tunger, not an Eburone

Look, the Eburones were big damn heroes. Everyone knows the story: Ambiorix lured the Romans out of their winter encampments into a hollow road, where they were ambushed by their native guides and slaughtered nearly to a man, sending a clear signal to Iulius Caesar that no, you will not take these lands without a fight. It was a brilliant feat of tactics.

Nobody, however, talks about the genocide, starting in 53 BCE. The Caesar pronounced a damnatio memoriae, every village in the Eburone territory was said to be put to the torch, their livestock and grain confiscated. And when we next hear about the area, Tacitus just mentions the Tungri. The Eburones are gone from history.

Or are they? I grew up in the area once thought of as the civitas Tungrorum, and everywhere you look, Ambiorix is lionized. He and the Eburones have been rehabilitated as culture heroes. There's a statue of him in the marketplace in Tongeren, the ancient capital not of the Eburones but the Tungri. And many, many family names got modified to be 'more Celtic' and end in -i(ck)x. Nobody mentions that their actions, however heroic, caused the end of their tribe.

The Tungri don't have clear origins, and the best we can guess, they're actually a composite people made up of a mixture of Germanic and Celtic tribes in an area massively unsettled by a campaign of destruction. Yet a few generations later, here they are, seemingly thriving under Roman rule.

The Tungri did the enormous job of recultivating, recivilizing, revitalizing the land, uniting the people, forming a government in what was nearly a post-apocalyptic reality for them. But they didn't give up, or give in, and they made life livable for themselves again.

The Eburones ended up dying for what they believed in, but the Tungri ended up living for it, every day. And that makes them big damn heroes in my book.

Dervogabios WIP

Meaning of the name: *Dervogabios is a reconstructed theonym and an epithet for this deity. It consists of *derwo- 'solid, true'1 and *gabios, a hypothetical word for 'grip' or 'fist', a backformation from Insular Celtic which gives us a proto-form of *gabaglā . A theonym from the same root does exist in Gallo-Latin, namely Gabiae. The compound noun would mean 'He with a firm grip'.2

Pronunciation: Der-wah-GAHB-yaws. The R, as usual, is trilled.

Function: Dervogabios is the main deity of the Cimbrians and the Aduatuci.

Originating in Himmerland in what is now Denmark,3 the Cimbrians roamed far and wide alongside the Teutons and the Ambrones, starting in the 2nd century BCE. Their migrations took them first to Southeastern Europe, from where they visited Italy, Gaul, Spain, Gaul again and finally Italy, where they were defeated by Roman legions.4 To this day, there are people speaking a Germanic language in Northern Italy who refer to themselves as Cimbrians or Tzimbar.5 They left remnant populations wherever they traveled, and one such tribe is said to be the Aduatuci, who Caesar describes as the people who could or would not cross the Rhine,6 and who possessed a mighty fortress, likely located in the present-day Bois du Grand Dieu near Thuin.7

The origin of the name Cimbri is unknown. One etymology is PIE *tḱim-ro- "inhabitant", from tḱoi-m- "home" (> English home), itself a derivation from tḱei- "live" (> Greek κτίζω, Latin sinō).8 Derivations from Welsh or Cimmerian exist but they're highly suspect. The Aduatuci don't have a clear derivation either, but Delamarre gives us a derivation *ad-uātu-cā, 'place of the Vates, place of prophecy'.9,10 When these Cimbrians settled, there was no doubt a Celtic substrate already present, and the resulting tribe would be a mixture of Celtic and Germanic influences.

Iconography: None is attested, but He is likely associated with the raven, the boar and the bear, and depicted holding a traveler's staff. His beard is woven together, made of every road, and he is often shown playing a game to keep his mind sharp.

Attested Sources: Even though He's the main deity of the Cimbrians, Dervogabios himself is rather poorly attested, mostly from areas in Germany that saw a fair degree of Romanization, on the Heiligenberg, the Miltenberg and a location near Mainz. The inscriptions themselves do not reveal a great deal about the character of the God.11

Interpretatio Romana: As the main deity of the Germanic12 Cimbrians, Dervogabios is only known to us by his Roman Interpretatio of Mercurius Cimbrianus.13

Senobessus Bolgon interpretation: He is a staunch defender of His people, both on the road and in their townships and fortresses, watching over them in their hours of need, inspiring them with stratagem and insight, and would be an excellent choice for someone interested in the Aduatuci and their descendants the Tungri, as well as a strong God for those with Frankish inclinations.

Resources:

  1. Matasović, Ranko (2009). Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic
  2. Farwater (2020). Personal correspondence with the author.
  3. Katlev, Jan (2000). Politikens etymologisk ordbog, Copenhagen. p. 294
  4. Sampson, Gareth S. (2010). The crisis of Rome: the Jugurthine and Northern Wars and the rise of Marius. Pen & Sword Military. p. 175.
  5. Wurzer, Bernhard (1983). Die deutschen Sprachinseln in Oberitalien. Athesia, Bozen.
  6. Caesar, Julius. De Bello Gallico, 2.29.
  7. Roymans, Nico; Creemers, Guido; Scheers, Simone (2012). Late Iron Age Gold Hoards from the Low Countries and the Caesarian Conquest of Northern Gaul. Amsterdam University Press.
  8. Vasmer (1982). Russisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, 1958, vol. 3, p. 62; Z. Gołąb, "About the connection between kinship terms and some ethnica in Slavic", International Journal of Slavic Linguistics and Poetics 25-26, p. 166-7.
  9. Delamarre, Xavier (2003). Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise: Une approche linguistique du vieux-celtique continental (in French). Errance. p. 308.
  10. Toorians, Lauran (2013). "Aduatuca, 'place of the prophet'. The names of the Eburones as representatives of a Celtic language, with an excursus on Tungri". In Creemers, Guido (ed.). Archaeological Contributions to Materials and Immateriality. Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren. p. 111.
  11. The inscriptions from the Heiligenberg are (A) CIL XIII, 6399, dating to the 2nd century CE; (B) CIL XIII, 6402, also dating to the 2nd century CE; and (C) AE 1921, 52, dating from 171 to 250 CE. Those from the Miltenberg are (A) CIL XIII, 6604, dating to the consulship of Apronianus and Bradua in 191 CE, and (B) CIL XIII, 6605, dating to 189 or 212 CE. The Mainz ones are (A) CIL XIII, 6742 and (B) AE 1990, 742, from sometime from 171 to 250 CE.
  12. The Cimbri are characterized as Germanic by Julius Caesar (B. G. 1.33.3-4), Strabo (Geographica 4.4.3 and 7.1.3), Pliny (Nat. Hist. 4.100), and Tacitus (Germania 37, Histories 4.73), but as Celtic by Appian (Civil Wars 1.4.29, Illyrica 8.3).
  13. Kauffmann, Friedrich (1909). "Mercurius Cimbrianus". Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie. 38: 289–297.
  14. https://exilex2.files.wordpress.com/2020/05/tfa-observances.pdf

Purity gods

Lenus Mars, the primary deity of the Treveri, is a deity of health and wellness. Lenus was the protector of the Treveri themselves, and ended up with a healing portfolio due to His association with hot springs that were said to have healing properties. He's characterized as defending against wounds and injury in addition to defending the civitas.

Venus Cloacina, on the other hand, is Etruscan but comes to us by way of the Romans, and started off as the spirit of a waterway that eventually turned into Rome's main sewer. She accrued more responsibilities over time, eventually ending up as a goddess of cleanliness, filth and sex within marriage.

Deities of health are complex, but Lenus Mars and Venus Cloacina aren't as dissimilar as they appear. In fact, the ways in which they are different complement each other fairly well, and I'd like to present them both as candidates for being given cult.

They both deal with purification, cleanliness and good health as well as disease. Both are sort of distasteful in the sense that they deal with things that trigger our disgust reflex, pus and blood for one and urine and excrement for the other. All these are elements that are profaned and made dirty by the fact that they've left our bodies; as such, both deities also deal with the concept of purity.

Both are both agent and means but in differing proportions. Cloacina allows the filth to be vanquished, makes it vanquishable. Lenus, on the other hand, actively does the vanquishing, at least partially through ablution. Even though both are about health, only Lenus is about the physical healing process itself. He limits His healing to the boundaries of the flesh, to physical wounds and infirmities. Cloacina, on the other hand, is about prevention of disease and dirt. As such, She's also the deity of cleaning your environment, of hygiene. If Lenus is the disinfectant, Cloacina is the sterile gauze.

Another big difference is the moral dimension that attaches to Cloacina. Being injured or diseased doesn't carry any stigma for Lenus, but Cloacina's role of being the patron of "sex within the marriage" suggests that Romans had a concept of fluid bonding, that bodily fluids being exchanged could bring impurity with them. You could easily make a case that She should be petitioned to 'cure' not only infidelity but also its effects.

If health and wellness are important to you, if cleanliness is important to you, adopting one or both of these deities into your hearth cult could make a big difference.