Friday, 5 April 2013

Etain Echraidhe… Epona

E is for Etain Echraidhe
- Etain the horse rider-  (or, if you prefer it Epona.)

My A-Z Challenge is to post something about Celtic/Roman Britain of AD 71.

Gods and Goddesses were pretty popular! 

My novel-The Beltane Choice- focuses primarily on Celtic aspects, Nara of Tarras often sending a plea to her goddess, Rhianna, though Taranis the sky god also gets mention a time or two.

When planning my current WIP, the sequel to The Beltane Choice, I wanted more references to Roman religion. Evidence has shown that Celtic deities were ‘Romanised’ and Celtic customs that were already in place were often adapted to suit the Roman calendar or Roman function.

For my Roman character, Gaius Livanus Valerius, I wanted his most personal deity to be appropriate to his equestrian status. Epona, the horse goddess, was perfect for my purpose so I went in search of more details of her.

Epona, a Gaulish deity, protected not only the horse but also the rider, Epona having been adopted by the Romans -in part due to the Roman appreciation of the skills of Celtic horsemen. Widely feasted throughout the Roman Empire Epona became popular as the deity of many of the alae, the mounted legions. Epona is also associated with links to the land and fertility, with ties to the underworld. She is, in some guises, associated with Sovereignty and Rulership – all perfect for my character.   

Epona features in many ways depending on where the tale of her originated, and it was also significant that the name Epona was not changed by the Romans, quite a feat since the tendency was to rename with a preferred Roman one when a god or goddess was ‘acquired’. Whether she is feeding foals, or riding a white mare - my character Gaius is steeped in the cult of Epona.

I liked the idea that there is intermingling of names of goddesses and their attributes across the Roman Empire, and that the name often changes according to the territory in which she is worshipped.

That brought me back to the tradition in Roman Britain of absorbing what was already in place. In northern Britannia Epona seemed also to be known as Etain or Edain. 

Etain became my favoured choice. My character, Gaius, diligently worships Etain the Celtic horse goddess, having served in Britannia long enough to have adopted the local name.   


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  1. Most interesting, I find the way deities evolve fascinating.

    1. Thank you, Natasha. I really wasn't expecting to find anything when I went lookign for a 'British' version of Epona but was delighted when I found the above- which suited my writing much better!

  2. Another great post. I like reading about the different god and goddesses. Nice photos, too.

    1. Thanks, Karen. Lots more days to go....

  3. I know next to nothing about this era but I love reading about gods and goddesses. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Hello C. It will be lovely if you follow the posts then, since I intend them to all to be something of the era - though not all gods and goddesses.

  4. They also believe that her day of celebration was the Ides of December (December 18th) or around the winter solstice, as chief goddess the Celts. In fact they believe then when they began to Christianize Europe, they replace Jesus' birthday with the Epona day, a traditional holiday for giving presents. There is even a town in Germany they believe was named after her: Pohlheim, near Glauberg.

  5. Thank you, Coral. I think if I have any questions about Romans or Celts I'll be coming to you for advice. Sounds like it's a favourite era of yours too?


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