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Thread: Nehalennia: Dutch, Germanic, or Celtic Goddess?

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    Post Nehalennia: Dutch, Germanic, or Celtic Goddess?

    I promised to write this article (using various sources) a few months ago, I just wrote it, enjoy.

    Because i am half Zeelandic (Zeêuws in Zeelandic, Zeeuws in Dutch) i wanted to write a article about the Goddess Nehalennia, i have one book about her, its a very small book (12 pages) that mostly talks about the stones, statues and temples that where discovered, there is also a 119 page book from the archaeologist Dr. P. Stuart, he closely had been involved in the storage work in the Oosterschelde where most of the stones where found.
    In 2001, he published the scientific expenditure of these finds. (only in Dutch).

    From what i read is that her worship dates back at least to the 2nd century BCE, and who flourished in the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE, she was the goddess of fishermen and other people on the sea.
    She is associated with the afterlife, but probable she was also a goddess of fertility.

    She is represented generally sitting with a dog, sometimes interpreted as a symbol of faithfully, with fruit or apples, which can be understood as a symbol of fertility.



    A dog has the grim role of hellhound and guardian of the underworld within the indo-European mythology.
    In Roman sources the savage North sea was described at one occasion as infested with dogs. Apples refer in the European mythology several times to other-worldly (afterlives ?) harbours such as the apple country Avalon and the garden of Hesperia.

    Several inscriptions inform us that the votive altar was placed to show gratitude for a safe passage across the North Sea, and we may assume that other altars were dedicated for the same reason. (Of course, this does not mean that all pieces were erected after a safe passage.) An example of a typical inscription:

    To the goddess Nehalennia,
    on account of goods duly kept safe,
    Marcus Secundinius Silvanus,
    trader in pottery with Britain,
    fulfilled his vow willingly and deservedly.



    Hilda Ellis Davidson describes the votive objects:
    Nehalennia, a Germanic goddess worshipped at the point where travellers crossed the North Sea from the Netherlands, is shown on many carved stones holding loaves and apples like a Mother Goddess, sometimes with a prow of a ship beside her, but also frequently with an attendant dog which sits looking up at her. He was on thirteen of the twenty-one altars recorded by Ada Hondius-Crone (1955: 103), who describes him as a kind of greyhound.

    Davidson further links the motif of the ship associated with Nehalennia with the Germanic Vanir pair of Freyr and Freyja, as well as the Germanic goddess Nerthus, and draws a connection between the loaves of bread that appear on some depictions Nehalennia with oblong, shin-bone shaped loaves of bread baked in the shape of a boar at the time of Yule in Sweden. Davidson further states that customs in Värmland, Sweden "within living memory" describe grain from the last sheaf being used to bake a loaf into the shape of a little girl, as well as examples of elaborate loaves being used for religious festivals, for fertility of fields in Anglo-Saxon England, and examples from Ireland.

    The name "Nehalennia" is a Latin transcription of a non-Latin language, and thus the real name would probably have lost much of its local vocalization. Various etymologies have been proposed. According to some theorists, because the name Nehalennia is not known to be either a Celtic or Germanic name, it must be quite old, at least from the 2nd century BCE. In phonetic comparisons with other names in the region, Jacob Grimm discussed how Neha- is also used as suffix for plural females (for example -nehis and -nehabus), possibly meaning something like "nymphs" or "mothers".

    The goddess has also been adduced as evidence of a controversial non-Celtic non-Germanic Indo-European Nordwestblock culture.

    The goddess Nehalennia was equated by the Roman Tacitus (± 200-276) with the goddess Isis and we see agreements with the triple mother goddess of the Celts and Germanics. Both the goddess Nehalennia and the triple mother goddess can be seen with a fruit basket and a cornucopia.



    From what i can tell two hundred stones where found in 1970 by K.J. Bout, from the two hundred stones four or five where statures, only one was found with a head, parts of a temple was also found.

    Most stone monuments that where found by him where altars, but not regular altars but decorative altars, another source says the two hundred stones where votive stones (if i translate it correctly), a votive stone is a stone table with inscription, sculpture or painting which appears that a promise is fulfilled.

    In the year 1647 near Domburg parts of another temple where found, two more altars where found in Keulen but where destroyed by the bombardment during the second world war.

    There is a remade temple of Nehalennia in Zeeland:
    http://www.nehalennia-tempel.nl/

    For visitors, if I am right its closed most of the time but the door is made of glass so you can look inside.

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    It is interesting, when I started to read it the first thought that popped into my head was Nerthus. The geographic location, a fertility goddess, the association with water and death and, of course, the name.

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    My next thread about a Goddess in the Netherlands will be about Tanfana

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    As i count the bread or apples in the baskets (of these pictures) they amount to 6.

    The 6 is an important number in mythology and religion: 6 rings in Stonehenge, 6 steps of the pyramid of Zaquara, the sun with 6 elements of the runestones in Gotland, Saturday is the day of Saturn which is the 6 star, the sunwagon of Denmark with 6 wheels and on and on and on.

    It goes back to very olden times, around 35,000 years at the little figurines at the schwaebisch Alb, Germany.

    To my understanding it involves a certain exercise which brings one into the realm of the Gods.

    The Goddess, or any female in religion means a certain emotion, she/it is the one who brings you there, 'is giving birth to you in the realm of the Gods' if only for minutes.

    The dog is a guardian which guards you while you there and watches that anything which brings you out of there (negativity, judgements, imaginations etc) is warded off.

    She is also shown to be sitting. which means she is resting, not active. Activity of that part inside yourself (that what the Goddess represents) could get you out of that state (In the bible it is said that at the age of 6 Jesus went into the temple = meaning with the exercise the 6 represents he went into the house (the inner state) of God).

    That would be my interpretation. I understand there is a pletora of interpretation.
    Last edited by Ocko; Sunday, December 27th, 2009 at 06:18 PM. Reason: clarity

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    Also her Baldachin has 8 folds in the 2 cases which are shown, the other ones I can't check.

    8 is also important, as the 8 legged horse of Odin.

    As to my interpretation it means 4 breath (intake and outtake makes 8)

    As the 6 steps of the pyramid of Zaquara which leads to heaven, the 6 pyramids of Gizeh (3 big 3 small) have 4 sides. The sunwagon of Denmark also has 6 wheels each wheel has 4 spokes, our weekdays have the name of 4 Gods and 3 planetary elements, our world is divided into 4 directions and so on.

    the exercise of 6 is followed by 4 breath which are done by not having any thought, hence the Goddess is sitting, she isn't active anymore.

    At the cave of Chauvet there are 4 different horse heads breathing down on a rhino, another description of the breath.

    Seems to be a very interesting worship/cult which is in line with major religious practice at that time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dietsch View Post
    My next thread about a Goddess in the Netherlands will be about Tanfana
    She was also worshipped in parts of Northern Germany.

    "Judge of your natural character by what you do in your dreams" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ocko View Post
    The 6 is an important number in mythology and religion: 6 rings in Stonehenge, 6 steps of the pyramid of Zaquara, the sun with 6 elements of the runestones in Gotland, Saturday is the day of Saturn which is the 6 star, the sunwagon of Denmark with 6 wheels and on and on and on.
    And as an important part of the Mesopotamian number systems; they used 60 as a base, the smallest number divisible by the first six integers etc.

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    What is the reason to call it Mesopotamien system?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ocko View Post
    What is the reason to call it Mesopotamien system?
    They used base-60 down there in Mesopotamia (i.e. modern Iraq), in Sumer, Akkad, Babylon and so on.

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