Nemetonâ, her name meaning “She of the sacred grove”.
She is a Dêuos of the Sacred Space.
We have a reference to what a Nemeton might have looked like by Lucan, a Roman poet.
No bird nested in the nemeton, nor did any animal lurk nearby; the leaves constantly shivered though no breeze stirred. Altars stood in its midst, and the images of the gods. Every tree was stained with sacrificial blood. The very earth groaned, dead yews revived; unconsumed trees were surrounded with flame, and huge serpents twined around the oaks. The people feared approaching the grove, and even the priest would not walk there at midday or midnight lest he should then meet its divine guardian.Lucan, Pharsalia, III. 399 – 425
Could the divine guardian be speaking of Nemetonâ? I personally believe so? Her name may be related to the Germanic tribe, the Nemetes, located along the Upper Rhine, and Nemetona could be their ancestral Goddess. Part of her role could have been as the protector of the sacred sites and the sacred site. Nemeton means sanctuary, temple, sacred wood. We have five inscriptions of Nemetona, four in Germany and one in Britain.
Eisenberg, Germany (AE 2007, 1044)
[In h(onorem) d(omus)] d(ivinae) Marti Lou/[cetio et] Victoriae Neme/[tonae] M(arcus) A(urelius) Senillus Seve/[rus b(ene)f(iciarius) l]egati urnam cum / [sortib]us et phiala(m) ex / [vo]to posuit l(ibens) l(aetus) m(erito) / [Grat]o et Seleuco co(n)s(ulibus) / X Kal(endas) Maias
“In honor of the divine house, to Mars Loucetius and Victoria Nemetona, Marcus Aurelius Senillus Severus, a protégé of the general, set up an urn with its lots and serving-dish in free, cheerful, and well-deserved fulfillment of his vow on the tenth day before the Kalends of May in the consulship of Gratus and Seleucus.
This inscription points to the Warlike aspects of Nemetonâ because of either the epithet or conflation with the Roman Victoria. This has been the grounds for many to associate her with the Irish Nemhain (Goddess of Battle Frenzy). This is a very problematic idea because the Romans might not have understood Nemetonâ and just intertwined her with their Victoria, thus giving Nemetonâ new aspects.
Kleinwinternheim, Germany (Cil 13, 07253)
A (ulus) Didius Gallus / [F] abricius Veiento co (n) s (ul) / III XVvir sacris faciend (is) / sodalis Augustal (is) sod (alis) Flavial (is) / sod (alis) Titialis et Attica eius / Nemeton (ae) v (otum) s (olverunt) l (ibentes) m (erito)
Aulus Didius Gallus Fabricius Veiento, in his third consulship, one of the fifteen officials, member of the Augustan order, the Flavian order, and Titian order, along with his own Atticus, willingly fulfilled a vow as is proper to Nemetona.
Translated by Cunolugus Drugaisos
We discovered weapons as votive offerings around the place this inscription was found. Leading some to yet again suggest a warlike role.
Bath / Aquae Sulis Britain (CIL 07, 36)
Peregrinus / Secundi fil(ius) / civis Trever / Loucetio / Marti et / Nemetona(e) / v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito)
Peregrinus, son of Secundus, of the city of Trier, on Mars Leucetius and Nemetona gladly fulfilled his vow, having deserved it.
This appears to be a Treveran that traveled to the island and made a dedication to Loucetio and Nemetonâ. So this suggests that she was not native to the island but brought there.
Altripp Germany (CIL 13, 6131)
Marti et Nemetonae Silvini Iustus et Dubitatus v (otum) s (olvit) l (ibens) l (aetus) p (osuerunt)
To Mars and Nemetona, Silvinus Iustus and Dubitatus pos ero (this altar, and they gladly and joyfully fulfilled their vow.
Trier Germany (Finke 324)
Mart [i et] Nem [etonae]
To Mars and Nemetonâ, the epigraph comes from what is thought to be a temple’s remains. I cannot find any pictures on this one.
With these inscriptions, we see Nemetonâ paired with Mar/Loucetius. Let us remember that the Roman Mars was not always about war but also agriculture and prosperity. Delemarre gives us these interpretations of the name Loucetius meaning “Brilliant one” and “the Shining one“, maybe connecting us to lightning and growth within the nemeton. This gives us a more celestial Dêuos, but I digress. We will talk about him in a later article.
Because of the relationship to mars and a misunderstood idea of Nemetonâ from the Romans from what, I stated above. We can see that these warlike functions for Nemetonâ seem somewhat outdated and lacking in any objective reasoning besides maybe connecting her name to some Irish goddess Nemhain, which the etymology is significantly lacking in any genuine connection. So many folks have taken her to mean something different than I feel she is. Folks make her out to be a war goddess or a peaceful goddess connecting her to fairies and all kinds of things based on nothing.
Nemetona was one of the first Dêuos I connected to, so she is very special to me. She has been helping me understand the art of ritual and the sacred in Druidicos (Druidic Thought) and Galatibessus (Gaulish Customs).
We have found votive weapons around the areas where we have found some inscriptions of her. Nemetonâ is a goddess of boundaries for the Nemeton, protecting the sacred from outside harm. As a warlike function can take place in a time that she would need to protect the Nemeton. What went on in the nemeton was the most sacred ritualistic rites and offerings, and these need to be protected. So I have a very animistic approach to this idea. The description above from Lucan about Nemetons I view as more factual than not. I can see why folks would make things look a certain way. To keep folks out, it is to protect that which is in. Giving folks energy that would really resonate with you, and that resonation is Nemetonâ. She holds the most sacred in one hand and the other hand, the means to protect that.
Nemetonâ is the Dêuos of the altar, shrines, and sacred things goddess of asylum and a guardian Dêuos of open-air places. Nemetonâ is the ritual. She is available inside the home, inside our hallowed forests and ceremonies, and in every one of the spaces that we hold dear to our souls. She additionally exists within, enabling us to feel quiet wherever we are. She is the Sacred and Protector of the Sacred. The Sacred to be inside one’s self or in the natural world. She is the Nemeton, a place of worship.
I connect her to the ‘trance state’ of being and the ritual. She has a direct connection to the Drus. She is not a goddess of the Underworld or Upperworlds, as she is liminal in a sense. She is the feeling you get when you are at peace in your sanctuary. She anchors your intention to create serenity and calmness to reach a higher state of being.
I invoke Nemetonâ during every rite. In Drunemeton, she is invoked during the opening of our rites which you can see HERE. She is not an opener of the ways to the Deuoi but rather the conduit of the sacred space and primal energies dwelling around Drus .
Offerings I give are usually plants, Special incense, herbs, and libations. One can also keep your Nemeton and sacred places and things clean. That is also a great offering to Aisus. Donate your time picking up trash whenever possible.
Nemetonâ is the Scared and the protector of the Sacred.
Purify the sacred space
One must purify the sacred space. This is vital to establish your space or making a new one. We will use Juniper as this was used by the Senogalatis to clear away snakes and to help with bits from poisonous creatures. So we will use it to clear away unwanted energy in our space.
You will now need a Dagilâ (Candle) to represent Aidona.
Light your Juniper and walk around your area or make a motion around your area in a sunwise circle three times to represent the three realms of Drus (Albios, Bitus, and Dubnos). As you do this, say the below invocation.
We do this to establish the borders of our space.
(I invoke Nemetonâ)
(Lady of the Borders)
(Guardian of the Sacred)
(The Great Keeper)
Rodâi caddion uentî, etic aneges uritto duscâxslûs
Roh-daw-ee cad-dee-on wen-tee, eh-tick ah-neg-es ew-ree-toh dus-cawck-sloose
(You give sacredness to the offering space, and you protect against bad spirits)
Datiomos addatun etic brâtun tei
Dat-yoh-mos ad-da-tun eh-tick braw-tewn tey
(We give offering and thanks to you)
[Addatus – Offering]
Arxiomos inedon sindon uregetorio caddon
Ark-yoh-mos in-eh-don sin-don oo-reh-geh-tor-yoh cad-don
(I ask that this place be made sacred)
(Cheer to you)
(Thanks to you)
(I praise Nemetonâ)
(It is done)
Anne Ross – Pagan Celtic Britain
Miranda Green – Celtic Myths and Legends
Miranda Green – Celtic Goddesses
Epigraphic Database Heidelberg