The delightful Nancy Jardine is gracing my blog once more, and talks about my favourite animal – the horse – and the importance of its goddess in Celtic Britain, which is themed in her forthcoming novel After Whorl: Bran Reborn. What an intriguing name. I can’t wait to read it!
Hello Jane. Thank you for inviting me today- it’s a pleasure to visit you near the beginning of my blog tour to celebrate the launch of After Whorl- Bran Reborn, the second book in my Celtic Fervour series of novels, set around AD 71-84. Launch day for After Whorl- Bran Reborn is the 16th December 2013.
It seems odd, to me, to write my Celtic Fervour novels without a mention of some of the gods and goddesses that my characters might favour and worship. In The Beltane Choice, Nara appeals to her goddess Rhianna quite a few times; and Taranis is called upon by Lorcan to intercede in the trying circumstances he finds himself in. That first novel of the series is written predominantly from a Celtic perspective, the protagonists from the Selgovae and Brigante tribes, so it naturally follows that Celtic gods and goddesses are featured.
In After Whorl- Bran Reborn, the second novel of the series, my main characters are two Celtic Brigantes and one Roman tribune. Having a Roman as a main character has allowed me to focus on Gaius Livanus Valerius’ favoured goddess – Etain. Now, for anyone familiar with god and goddesses of Celtic and Roman religions, that might make some hairs stir since Etain Echraidhe is generally thought to be a Celtic, rather than a Roman, deity. Why did he not worship a Roman goddess like Diana the huntress? Alternatively, why was my Roman tribune not favouring the goddess Epona who admittedly had Gaulish Celtic origins, yet also found many Roman supporters?
The Celtic horse goddess, Epona, is immortalised in stone as well as metal. She is sometimes shown riding side-saddle accompanied by a pair of fine mares. In other images, she’s accompanied by a mare and a foal and is revered as a fertility goddess. In other images, she tends to only one horse. However, in addition to being worshipped as a fertility goddess, Epona was also given the reputation of being a protector to all who had dealings with horses: those who rode them, and those who groomed or bred them.
I remember reading a story a long time ago about Celtic horse-handlers who only caught and removed young foals from the forests, to tame them, this practice allowing the adult horses to continue to breed. It seems natural to find out that those who trained those young colts and fillies were devotees of Epona, and gained protection from her. I’m no horse person myself, as I believe you are, but I know that the breaking in of a foal demands much patience, the young animal needing constant reassurance from the handlers. Getting used to the bridle and reins, and bearing a rider takes great expertise from any horse-handler and as such Celtic horsemen and horsewomen had a good position in the hierarchy of the tribe. A horse shying away, panicking, or not responding to commands while pulling a chariot, or bearing a warrior during a battle would have been of little use to any Celt. Therefore, being a horse handler was a very good job since the horse stock was a very important part of a tribe’s wealth. Worshipping Epona because you worked with horses must have had a lot of kudos, I think, in Celtic society.
Epona appeared to ensure such success among Celtic warriors that when the Roman Army infiltrated Celtic Europe many of the Roman soldiers took on the Gaulish Epona as their own goddess. Epona then became the revered goddess of many of the alae units – that is of the mounted Roman cavalry.
In After Whorl- Bran Reborn, my Roman Tribune Angusticlavius – Gaius Livanus Valerius – comes from an elevated equestrian background, and has spent time as a junior officer of a mounted ala in Roman Britain. He’s had plenty of time to come to know the customs of Britannia; he’s learned more of the language of the Celts and has adopted some of their worship.
In particular, he worships Etain – an alternative name for Epona in some Celtic areas of Britannia.
Exactly when Gaius made the transfer from Epona to Etain is not divulged, neither in book two, nor in book three After Whorl-Donning Double Cloaks (due sometime around Spring 2014), but it most likely happened when he was stationed with an ala in the area we now call north Wales, with the Legio XX.
Ineda, my main Celtic female character in After Whorl- Bran Reborn, learns exactly how important worshipping Etain is to Gaius.
I love researching gods and goddesses of ancient civilisations and hope this little taster has brought you something new today. If you’re interested in following my Blog Tour Stops, you’ll find I’m writing about a different aspect of Celtic/Roman history at each of my visits. There’s a fantastic Facebook launch party arranged for launch day 16th December. Everyone is welcome – all you need to do is say hello!
(Please check my blog for the tour schedule and for details of prizes awarded during the tour. Blog )
Thank you for the invitation to visit you today, Jane.
Nancy Jardine lives in the fantastic ‘castle country’ of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, with her husband. She spends her week making creative excuses for her neglected large garden; doesn’t manage as much writing as she always plans to do since she’s on Facebook too often, but she does have a thoroughly great time playing with her toddler granddaughter when she’s just supposed to be ‘just’ childminding her twice a week.
A lover of all things historical it sneaks into most of her writing along with many of the fantastic world locations she has been fortunate to visit. Her published work to date has been two non fiction history related projects; two contemporary ancestral mysteries; one light-hearted contemporary romance mystery and a historical novel. She has been published by The Wild Rose Press and Crooked Cat Publishing.