May 10, 2022•747 words
We don't know anything about these goddesses, apart from the fact they existed. But they did exist, and I try to adhere to the worldview of the Tungri who've never met a deity they didn't like. So this is a blog entry on the virtues of intoxication and rage; enjoy!
The Mantalon Bolgon calendar contains a celebration of Vercana, based on CIL XIII 4511, which says ara in HDD et deae Vercanu dedicata est in civitate Mediomatricorum.
This altar is dedicated in this house of the gods and to the goddess Vercana in the civitas of the Mediomatrici.
The goddess exists; in the lands of the Treveri she was worshipped alongside Meduna, who is only found in inscription CIL XIII, 7667, deae Vercanae et Medunae L. T. Acceptus VSLM.
Lucius T. Acceptus fulfilled his vow gladly and willingly to the goddesses Vercana and Meduna.
Pure reconstruction often doesn't take us incredibly far in continental Celtic or Germanic religions. I'm not the first one to notice this; Sheena McGrath has been down this path before me and done a great job of charting the thicket of possible meanings of the names of both deities.
Analogous with the associations of Lenus Mars as a deity with a wide remit (water, healing, warmth, civilization, war), Vercana could be a water goddess as argued by Olmsted, *uer-k in Indo-European meaning 'to wind' or 'to twist', which suggests a meander. Delamarre and others contend that the root should be Indo-European *uerg, 'to do, to act, to hasten, to press' which instead suggests decisive, even rash action and evokes bloodlust and Celtic battle-rage.
Meduna could be a water-goddess as well, but is most likely to be a goddess of honey and mead and thus of drunkenness and altered states, according to Beck. It's important not to limit this to merely drunkenness because of the many spiritual properties attributed to mead, though. Even 'intoxication' doesn't quite cover the load in English. If Vercana can be compared to the Morrigan, Meduna correlates to Medb.
They form a natural pair, though. Even if we discount the Treverian affinity for water a little, we end up with Vercana as a goddess of rage and Meduna as a goddess of intoxication. Both are trance-like, altered states of consciousness where we become more permeable to the numinous.
It's hard to spin both of these aspects as positives in this day and age, but there's a lot to be said for them. I know that I am quicker to oppose something than to support it; I'm a very critical person and if I made you a sketch yesterday that today seems wrong to me, I'll erase it even quicker than I drew it. Antagonism can sharpen someone else's points in a discussion, protest and resistance are watchwords in our political era. I don't hate everything indiscriminately, and I know there's work to be done to build a more just society. But fury at injustice is admirable, and while I think it's more useful in complex situations if you can harness it and have it build up before you unleash it, it's an intrinsic aspect of experience. Even dogs have a concept of scorn and of justice.
Am I quite doing justice to these deities, though? I'd like to lift two quotes, by Bruneaux and Poux, from Beck's excellent Goddesses of Intoxication here:
'For a Gallic warrior, fighting was not a human undertaking, until the Roman conquest of Gaul. War was a huge ordeal in which the warrior was only the hand of the deity. The strength of weapons and the subtleties of strategy were secondary preoccupations. It was only the means of placing oneself in the service of the divine force which counted.'
'The war character of Gallic intoxication has been clearly testified by written sources and archaeological data. […] The role of alcohol in the war sphere is well-known and acknowledged: stimulating moral courage and physical strength, it [alcohol] puts combatants in a state of self-transcendence, of surpassing of oneself and of sacred exaltation, which has always had its source in trance, drug and alcohol, throughout time and space.'
I don't have any experience of oracular incubation, I haven't bitten any of my shields in twain. I really should if I want to viscerally understand these goddesses.
If you'd like to give cult to Vercana, a good time to do it would be on 11. May, after nightfall, or during the day on the 12th.