Matres Ollototae and/or Transmarinae


The Matres Ollototae are attested to from inscriptions from Roman Britain. The epithet comes from Brythonic ollo-, ‘all’ and teuta, touta, ‘tribe,’ or in other words “Mothers of All the Tribes.” Unlike most of the inscriptions to the Matres in Britian, at least one inscription was found at a non-military site (Heronbridge, Cheshire).


Another inscription, made by one Pomponius Donatus at Roman Fort Binchester in Durham County, links the epithet Ollotate to the epithet Transmarinae with the word sive, meaning “or.”

I(ovi) O(ptimo) M(aximo) et Matribus Ollototis sive Tramarinis Pomponius Donatus, b(ene)f(iciarius) co(n)s(ularis) pro salute sua et suorum v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito), ‘To Iupiter, Best and Greatest, and to the Mother Goddesses of All the Peoples, or Overseas, Pomponius Donatus, beneficiaries of the governor, for the welfare of himself and his household willingly fulfilled his vow’

The epithet Transmarinae is also found at Lowther, Plumpton Wall (Cumbria), Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Tyne and Wear) and Risingham (Northunmberland). Transmarinus/a/um can mean either “beyond the sea” or “coming from beyond the sea.” But if They can hear prayers from across the sea, then They have in fact crossed the sea Themselves, making a combination of both meanings likely in my eyes. Perhaps, like the Chinese goddess Mazu (“Mother Ancestor”), who is a protectress of sailors and fishermen who has not one but two temples in San Francisco Chinatown, They may also have been seen as facilitating safe passage across the sea.


Jin Xiang Ma statue of Mazu, Lugang Mazu Temple, Taiwan.

At York, an inscription was dedicated to the “African, Italian and Gaulish Mothers,” and at Winchester, one was dedicated to the “Italian, German, Gaulish and British Mothers.” These are clearly in the same vein as the inscriptions to the Matres Ollototae and the Matres Transmarinae.


7 responses to “Matres Ollototae and/or Transmarinae

  • aediculaantinoi

    Very interesting…

    I’m curious: where did you read that olio- is Brythonic for “all”? It would appear to be cognate to Irish oli-, which does not mean “all” but instead “great,” despite the frequency with which many (often pagans) prefer to translate it as “all,” as in Eochaid Ollathair, one of the by-names of The Dagda, which they tend to translate as “All-Father” (due to Odinic assumptions) rather than as “Great Father.” In any case, I’m just wondering…If it is in fact cognate to the term meaning “great,” then it would be the Great Mothers of the Tribes, or the Mothers of the Great Tribes, and I can see either of those being potentially relevant as well.

    • Heathen Chinese

      I read it in the linked excerpt from this thesis. There’s no “i” in ollo-, though, I don’t know if that makes a difference (from looking at the name Eochaid Ollathair, perhaps not). But even if ollo- is “great,” the enumeration of African, Italian, Gaulish, German, and British Mothers might not include “all” tribes, but it does cover a lot of them.

      • aediculaantinoi

        Sorry…due to how bad my computer is lately on autocorrecting certain things, that should have been oll, not “oli” in the first instance above.

        The whole thing of it being “great tribes” rather than “all tribes,” though, wouldn’t be that much of a problem; there was certainly elitism about such things in the ancient world, and the minor tribes never were able nor allowed to forget they were minor in comparison to the “great” ones…

      • aediculaantinoi

        I’ll take a closer look at the thesis later; but, given a few things (that it was done for a French university, where certain odd theories can prevail without much evidence, and one of the members of the thesis committee was, while well-respected, not the best on such things), this sort of error in detail might have slipped by.

      • Heathen Chinese

        Cool, thank you, the Celtic languages are not my area of expertise, so that would be helpful!

  • lornasmithers

    I was unaware of the epithet Transmarinae. Very interesting in research I’ve been doing in relation to a deity who seems to be beneath both St Mary the Virgin and St Mary Magdalene inscriptions here and is also known as Mary of the Marsh. In Welsh Mor means ‘sea’ and Marian means ‘liminal’. There are records of her being venerated here as Stella Maris, ‘Star of the Sea’. I wonder if she is one of the Transmarinae mothers or similar to them?…

  • Heathen Chinese

    Mary of the Marsh sounds cool! I definitely see Mazu as being very similar to Mary Stella Maris. I think the sive inscription in particular really exemplifies that the Matronae and Matres inscriptions are dedicated to collective entities with highly permeable membership. That is to say, even if Mary of the Marsh or Mazu were not originally among the Matres Transmarinae, They certainly can be venerated as such in modern cultus, given proper relationships to all Powers involved.

    Given this collective structure and organizational principle, I and other modern cultists understand the Matronae and Matres and their epithets to include not just deities, but also ancestors and land spirits. And not all of the Powers included or allied need to be what humans consider “female,” though the collectives as such are certainly understood as Matrons and Mothers.

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