Tag Archives: Matronae

Matronae Veteranehae


Credit: RLMB

This is a fragment of an altar to the Matronae Veteranehae, the Matrons of Veterans. It comes from the area around Embken and Wollersheim, which are neighborhoods of modern-day Nideggen, Germany. Various inscriptions have been found in the area, probably all from the same sanctuary. It dates from 150-200 C.E.

This partial inscription reads:


Which probably is short for: Mat[ronis] / Veter[anehis] / L[ucius] Sev[erinus] / Tac[itus?] –/—-, “To the Matronae Veteranehae, Lucius Severinus Tacitus–/—-”

The end of the inscription may have been a formula such as VSLM (votum solvit libens merito, “fulfilled his vow willingly and deservedly” or DD (donum dedit, “gave this gift”).

In The Cult of the Matronae in the Roman Rhineland, Alex Garman writes:

“Veteranehae” derives from the Latin veterani which means retired soldiers. The name and the location of the site suggest that some of the surrounding farms were owned or managed by retired Roman soldiers. The inscriptions […] do not record any ranks or positions held. (55)

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.

Eostre as an Eastern Kentish Goddess?

Eastry in April

Eastry, Kent. April 2011. Credit: Nick Smith.

Last month was the Anglo-Saxon Hredmonath, Hreda’s month according to Bede’s De Temporum Ratione. Now, we are in Eosturmonath, Eostre’s month. River Devora has recently written about Hreda and Eostre at Polytheist.com, including about Hreda’s possible associations with the Gothic tribes.

If Hreda has potential etymological links to the Goths, what of Eostre? In Pagan Goddesses in the Early Germanic World: Eostre, Hreda and the Cult of the Matrons, Philip Shaw argues that she may have been a goddess closely linked to the Anglo-Saxons of Eastry, Kent.

Of Eosturmonath and Eostre, Bede writes:

Eostur-monath, qui nunc paschalis mensis interpretetur, quondam a dea illorum quae Eostre vocabatur, et cui in illo festa celebrabant, nomen habuit, a cuius nomine nunc paschale tempus cognominant; consueto antiquae observationis vocabulo gaudia novae solemnitatis vocantes.

Eosturmonath, which now is translated Paschal month, had its name from a goddess of theirs called Eostre, and they celebrated festivals for her in that month, by whose name they now call Paschal season; calling the joys of the new festival by the customary name of the ancient observance.

Though Eostre’s name is related to the modern English word “east,” Shaw casts significant doubts on Jacob Grimm’s popular 1882 hypothesis of a pan-Germanic dawn goddess *Ostara/Eástre, citing “lack of evidence for uses of ‘east’ and its relatives and derivates as words for ‘dawn’ or ‘Spring’ in the Germanic languages” (61).

Instead, Shaw theorizes a close relationship between the goddess Eostre and the place-name Eastry in Kent. He focuses on the hypothetical Old English word *ēastor and the presence of the vowel /o/ in the second syllable, something shared by both Eostre’s name and the place-name Eastry, but not by place-names derived from the adjective ēastra (59-60).


Early forms of “Eastry” demonstrating /o/ as the original vowel of the second syllable include Eastrgena (788 CE); Eastrege, Eostorege, Eosterege, Eosterge (811); Eastorege (805-832) and Eastræge (825-832). Eastry’s antiquity as a place-name is reinforced by the *gē element, meaning “district,” which became obsolete early on in Old English (67).

Eastry appears to have been the name of one of the four regions forming the original center of the Kentish kingdom. Sturry and Lyminge are also Eastern Kentish place-names with the *gē element, and early Anglo-Saxon burials have been found at all three sites. Eastry was a royal estate, and the site of an early Anglo-Saxon church, and it has been theorized that Eastry, Sturry and Lyminge were all early royal capitals of the kingdom of Kent.

Sturry and Lyminge have been linked to the terms Burhwaraweald and Limenwaraweald, place-names implying the group-names *Burhwara (“inhabitants of the burh [Canterbury]”) and *Limenwara (“inhabitants of the area of the river Lympne”). By analogy, Shaw suggests that the inhabitants of Eastry may have been known as the *Ēastorwara (“inhabitants of the eastern area”). Though there is no clear evidence of even such a group’s existence, Shaw theorizes based upon parallels with tribal Matronae epithets that Eostre may have been linked to this hypothetical sub-tribal grouping (67).

Bede’s Sources

Shaw notes that “Bede’s <eo> spelling of Eostre is likely to reflect his use of a written source from outside his own locality — but it does not allow us to pin down the origins of this source with any precision” (65). Nonetheless, there is evidence that Bede received sources for the Historia Ecclesiastica from Kent, making it possible that he had relied upon similar sources in the earlier De Temporum Ratione.


There is some doubt raised for Bede’s use of Kentish source by the appearance of the month-name rugern in the laws of Wihtræd of Kent (690-725 CE), which is not found in Bede, but Shaw considers it “quite possible that rugern represents a western Kentish usage, whereas Eostre, if Bede received his month-list form Canterbury, would be an eastern Kentish form” (66). Eastry, of course, is also in eastern Kent, as shown by the map above.

Importance of Geographical/Social Relationship

Because of the prominence of Grimm’s theory that Eostre was a dawn goddess and Helm’s theory that she was Spring goddess as well as the popularity of “function models” of polytheism in general, Shaw advocates for wariness around function models and argues that in the case of Eostre, “the etymological connections of her name suggest that her worshipers saw her geographical and social relationship with them as more central than any functions she may have had” (71). Such an approach also downplays the need to find pan-Germanic parallels by focusing on the importance of local and tribal deities…which ironically was something shared by different Germanic-speaking groups (and many non-Germanic-speaking peoples as well).

The Wild Hunt: Pantheacon 2016

My latest article for The Wild Hunt, a report back on Pantheacon 2016, is now up. It covers presentations by indigenous people at the conference, hospitality and the guest-host relationship, oracles received during a devotional ritual held in honor of the Matronae, and thoughts about warfare and the slogan “accomplices not allies.”

Matronae Epithets: Germanic

From Alex Garman’s The Cult of the Matronae in the Roman Rhineland:

Of the hundreds of Matronae inscriptions, over half of them have Germanic epithets. The following list contains the names and meanings of some of the epithets that are believed to be Germanic and whose translations are generally agreed upon by scholars:

Afliae: Powerful ones
Ahinehiae: River deities
Alagabiae: All giving
Alhiahenae: Elk deities or temple
Alusneihae: goddesses of ecstasy
Amfratninae/Amratninae: personal fortune
Annanept(i)ae: friendly sisters
Audrinehae/Authrinehae/Autriahenae: friendly powers of destiny
Aufaniae: goddesses of swampy place
Austriahenae: goddesses of the sheep [Shaw gives “eastern matrons” or “matrons belonging to an eastern group of people” instead]
Berguiahenae: goddesses of trees
Chuchenehae: goddesses of the hill
Etrahenae: goddesses of a region
Fachinehae/Fahineihae: Gladsome ones
Fernovinehae: goddesses of the stream
Gabiae: Giving ones
Gavadiae: Ones who watch over vows
Gavasiae: goddesses of midwives
Gesahenae: goddesses of a region
Gratichihenae: goddesses of grazing
Haitinae: goddesses of the heat
Hamavehae: goddesses of the Chamavi
Lanehiae: goddesses of the region
Leudinae: goddesses of healing
Mahalinehae: goddesses of the court
Ratheih(i)ae: wheel goddesses
Renahenae: goddesses of the Rhine river
Suebae: Goddesses of the Suebi
Teniavehae: Goddesses of a region
Textumeihae: Bringers of Joy
Treverae: Goddesses of the Treveri
Tummaestiae: helpers of the house
Turstuahenae: the mightiest
Vacallinehae: goddesses of the river Waal
Vanginehae: goddesses of the meadow
Vatvae: goddesses of prophecy


Alex G. Garman. The Cult of the Matronae in the Roman Rhineland: An Historical Evaluation of the Historical Evidence. Lewiston: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2008. 72-73.

Philip A. Shaw. Pagan Goddesses in the Early Germanic World: Eostre, Hreda and the Cult of Matrons. London: Bristol Classical Press, 2001. 63.

Many Gods West Reportback

I am now a monthly columnist at The Wild Hunt. My first piece is a reportback on the Many Gods West conference.

List of Many Gods West Write-ups

If you wrote about your experiences or typed up the text of your presentation at Many Gods West and it is not on the list below, leave a comment and I’ll edit this post to include it.

Texts/audio of offerings/rituals/presentations:

  1. Contributions to Skaði’s Shrine Room Prayer Box
  2. DeoMercurio: Kalends of August ritual handouts, script, etc.
  3. Finnchuill: Becoming Placed – Part I
  4. Heimlich A. Laguz: Dreaming, Death, & Memory: Sketches for a Heathen Cosmology (audio with powerpoint slides)
  5. John Beckett: Preparing the Way of the Gods
  6. L. Phaedras: Engaging with Anonymous Spirits – Part I; Part II
  7. Morpheus Ravenna: Deep Polytheism: On the Agency and Sovereignty of the Gods (keynote address)
  8. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus: Opening and Closing Rituals
  9. Rhyd Wildermuth: What Do They Mean?
  10. Sean Donahue: Restoring Life to Death


  1. Brennos Agrocunos: Pagan, Polytheist, or Both? Why Labels are Sometimes Important
  2. Danica Swanson: Reflections on the Many Gods West conference
  3. DeoMercurio: Report-back from Olympia! Part I; Part II; Part III
  4. Dver: We were filled with frenzy (Dionysos ritual)
  5. Ember Cooke: Many Gods West – Friday; Saturday day; Saturday night; Sunday afternoon; Closing and Aftermath
  6. Éirinn nighean Brìghde: Many Gods, Many Blessings
  7. Finnchuill: The Many Gods West Report; Pictures
  8. Fjothr Odinsdottir Lokakvan: Many Gods West; Snow in Summer (Skaði shrine)
  9. Gwion Raven: Many Gods West – Many Reasons to Attend
  10. Heathen Chinese: Many Gods West
  11. Jason Mankey: Many Gods, Many Paganisms
  12. John Beckett: Many Gods West
  13. L. Phaedras: Many Gods West – Part I; Part II; Part III
  14. Nicstoirm: The Experience; The People & Panels; The Hopes
  15. Niki Whiting: Many Gods, Many Peoples, Many Experiences
  16. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus: Many Gods West 2015: A Success!; Other Rituals at MGW; Sessions at MGW; Earth Goddesses Uprising
  17. Rhyd Wildermuth: The Land Across The Water (Matronae ritual); Dahut At the Floodgate
  18. Syren Nagakyrie: Many Gods West: Magic and Liberation in the PNW
  19. Tempest: Many Gods, Many Minds, Many Truths