The Tribe of Witches: The Religion of the Dobunni and Hwicce by Stephen J. Yeates
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book read more like an archaeological survey of place names and people names that were connected to old time deities then it was about examining an actual so called tribe of witches. The book was a bit over the top on a scholarly read and was as interesting as reading a textbook for college. To be sure the book was loaded with details, so loaded in fact that one tended to gloss over the details and just glide over the book. The main ideas stuck and there are conclusions after each chapter that recap what you had just read.
The area in question lies in England, in Cotswold and Severn Valley. The area used to belong to a tribe called the Dobunni and after they went extinct or lost their label the area became home to a tribe of witches called the Hwicce. The time frame being examined is the bronze-iron age witch some references to Roman times and input with a smattering of references to Christianity. Most of the relics have been eroded so people are just making conjectures half the time with no solid proof. It also helps to have a strong background in Old English because terminology is explored in depth.
The name Cotswold is a reference to a Goddess with a vessel called Cuda. Her statures and carvings have been found extensively in the Dobunni area. Along side of her are three hooded figures called Cuculis or hooded ones. The books does not provide a clear definition of who they are but other gods are referenced. The first one is Camula, he is a war god oft associated with Mars or conflated to him. The second one is Nodens, and his function is like that of a sky god or bringer of fortune. The third god was Cunomaglos, he was a hunters God who went after the heart. He is accompanied by a hound and hawk.
The rivers with a given name often spawn the name of a goddess, For example the river Goddess Severn was connected to that river. Most of the rivers had a patron Goddess and the forests had a genius loci or guardian spirit. Each tribe had their own patron god or goddess as well. Folk names often were named after the river they lived near. Hence a name would be the Folk of the river Severin. Horses were important as well, espiially Epona. Across the continent the patron god was often worshipped or depicted along side the Goddess Epona.
The rivers usually had a shrine built over the spring source or somewhere along side the river. Broken swords and other metallic object were dumped in the river usually as a sacrifice of gift to the deities. Other areas were sacred as well. Forests were sacred, nemeton or sacred groves were important as well. Trees were also places of worship.
Horses were sacred animals, in fact they were the most sacred animals. Sometimes they would be buried with someone or sacrificed.
Getting down to the point. The mother Goddess was Cuda and the father god was Mercury. Thanks Roman influence for that. The Goddess did have a cauldron and she did have three facets in some depictions. Something for neo pagans to chew on. The book with it’s connections to literature gets way more interesting in the end.
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