Meaning of name: Delamarre lists this theonym as meaning ‘blue’ as in blue flower and the color of eyes. He constructs this meaning from Old Irish ‘Buge’.
Jürgen Zeidler however has an alternative idea:
“A buck-shaped god or goblin, *bugo- or *bukko- (16) is well known throughout the Celtic countries from the Middle Ages onwards under the names Púca (Ireland), Pwca (Wales), Bucca (Cornwall), Bòcan (Scotland), and Buggane (Isle of Man). These forms, however, are re-imported from Germanic *bukka- (LEIA P-16). The original Celto-Germanic words are present in Middle Irish bocc, pocc ‘he-goat, (kind of) soldier’, Welsh bwch ‘buck’, and Gaulish bucco- (in personal names, Forier 2001: 496). It is possibly attested as a theonym in Gaulish Bugius, a god in Tarquimpol (Moselle), and, together with Nerius ‘hero’, in Haegen (Bas-Rhin). It may be noted that the (internal) Irish derivative bocánach refers to “some kind of (?goat-like) supernatural being usually associated with battle or battlefield” (DIL B-130).”]
A third option mentioned by Edward Hatfield in personal conversation would be a relationship to the verb *bungo meaning ‘Break, strike’ or ‘cuts, reaps, gathers’.
Function: The function of this deity is lost to time. There is no Interpretio Romana in Their epigraphy, so comparative study based on the possible theonym meanings is a must for a possible contemporary understanding. If the theonym is indeed related to he-goats this gives us much to speculate. He could be relatable to Pan or the reconstructed *Paxuson as understood by Ceiswir Serith:
“ ‘The Nourisher’ or ‘Shepherd’ has a famous descendant – Pan. Páxusōn is also the source of the Vedic Pūsan, god of herds and roads, and may have a functional cognate in the Gaulish Cernunnos (Fickett-Wilbar, forthcoming). Probably, he was originally a god of herds, but because of the nature of the herds (between properly domestic and wild) and the location of the pastures outside the homestead, he became a god of bidirectionality. He is the one who stands between. He guards travelers, merchants, and other go-betweens. He guards the herds, the source of wealth, as well. He may be prayed to both as an opener of the ways and as a giver of prosperity. He is also the psychopomp, the deity who guides the souls of the dead on their way. As such he is prayed to in the funeral ritual.”
Serith also points out in his ‘Cernunnos: Looking a different way’ that Cernunnos, the famous Gaulish god found on the Pillar of the Boatmen, could be looked at as ambiguous liminal god of bi-drectionality, wealth, and protector of merchants and travelers, as well as the standard animal god trope found in many Celticist writings.
Keeping this in mind, the author would like to point out a very tenuous speculation; Bugius may have continued on as Bugul Noz in Breton folklore. The similarity between Bugul Noz and Bugius’ name are noteworthy, but are perhaps unlikely related. Bugul, according to Matasovic, would have come from *bow-koli-. This being said, Bugul Noz is a beneficent being who often warns humans ‘by his coming, that night is not made for lingering in the fields or on the roads, but for shutting oneself in behind closed doors and going to sleep.’ Though his shepherding seems more opposed to the traditional pastoral idea of hearding animals, his office does remind one of Serith’s version of Páxusōn in a way, guiding the human in bidirectionally and from liminal dangers.
In the epigraphy found in Decempagi (Tarquimpol, France), He is found alone, which could mean that Interpretatio Romana wasn’t used because of there was no equivalent to Him in this region. Looking at his other epigraphy mentioned above in Haegen, France, He is paired with Nerius. Though we can look at Nerius for comparison, we should be careful in assuming an Interpretatio Gallica.
Nerius has the meaning ‘The Hero’, ‘The Lord’, ‘the powerful, noble, great-hearted man’. He was also paired with Faunus in an inscribed spoon (DEII FAUNI NARI). Other iconography from Icenian areas evidence a boar connotation and therefore martial overtones. Another spoon depicts Nerius (here as DEI NARI) with the front half as equestrian (centaur-like) and the second half amphibious, holding a conch shell as a horn and a triton accompanied by a fish or dolphin. The spoon’s handle is a crane baring teeth. Daphne Nash Briggs believes that this iconography represents a union of the civil, religious and military functions. This union could also symbolize a liminality function as well.
If the theonym is related to the color blue as Delamarre suggests, it is harder to speculate. There are a few deities found in Celtic religions that pertain to colors and associated meanings. Rudianos, according to Miranda Aldhouse-Green, means red or red god, which points to a warrior connotation for example. The same is said about Cocidius, who’s name also mean red according to A.L.F. Rivet and Colin Smith.
The color blue, along with black, is a associated with dirt or pastoral functions in Indo-European religion and therefore could be the same within Celtic religion(s). Therefore, if this meaning of the name is correct, it could still point to a pastoral deity with psychopomp properties with these color associations.
The third possible meaning, to break/reap/cut could also point to such a function as well. It should be noted that this region was used for harvesting salt, and was also covered in grasslands with some croplands and few forests. This process for processing salt (from evaporating salty water) used ceramic cups heated by firewood, presumably by the Mediomatrici. There could be a connection to this deity and this industry as well via cutting or reaping firewood for salt gathering.
Iconography: Because no iconography in antiquity survived or existed, a shepherd’s crook, a satyr-like being, cross roads, goats
Attested Sources: One inscription in Decempagi (Tarquimpol, Moselle, France), and one in Haegen, France.
Interpretatio Romana: Faunus but only via his paring with Nerius/Narius, who Himself was officially syncretized with Faunus.
Senobessus Bolgon interpretation: Bugius is a pastoral and agricultural deity who guards the herd from danger. He is a god of bi-directionality and liminal functions including being a psychopomp who guides the dead in the afterlife. Bugius also is the shepherd who guides us to the safety of indoors during the night. Bugius would also be in charge of the protection of nearby forests and would be petitioned to for use of it’s resources. He would also be one to petition to for one’s enemy in battle to become afraid and confused.
With the possible later related terms in mind, it’s Senobessus Bolgon’s interpretation that Bugius may have associated spirits akin to Pan having Paniskoi or Faunus having Fauni. They (Bugiûs) could be genii of untamed woodland and/or spirits that are like Púca or Puk with inclinations towards mischief but can be protectors of the house. Thus, whenever the crops of harvest are brought in, whatever is left in the field goes to them. Blue would be a color to associate with Him.
Bugius would be a great god for those with a Mediomatrici focus.
1. Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise (2nd ed.) by Xavier Delamarre (2003)
2. Celtic Religion and Systems Theory by Jürgen Zeidler
3. Deep Ancestors: Practicing the Religion of the Proto-Indo-Europeans (p. 59-60) by Ceisiwr Serith (Kindle Edition)
4. Cernunnos: Looking a Different Way by David Ficket-Wilbar/Ceisiwr Serith
5. An etymological lexicon of Proto-Celtic by Ranko Matasovic P. 72
6. The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries by Walter Evans-Wentz P. 191
7. Celtic Religions in The Roman Period: Personal, Local, and Global edited by Ralph Haeussler & Anthony King 2018 (entry: Something Old, Something New: The Names of Faunus in Late-Roman Thetford (Norfolk) and their Iron-Age Background by Daphne Nash Briggs) P. 95-96, 101
8. Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend by Miranda Aldhouse-Green (1997)
9. The Place-names of Roman Britain by A.L.F. Rivet and Colin Smith
10. Deep Ancestors: Practicing the Religion of the Proto-Indo-Europeans (p. 14-15) by Ceisiwr Serith (Kindle Edition)
11. Celtic Myth and Religion: A Study of Traditional Belief, with Newly Translated Prayers, Poems and Songs P. 1660-1661 (Kindle Edition)
12. Searching for ancient forests: A 2000 year history of land use in northeastern French forests deduced from the pollen compositions of closed depressions by David Etienne, Pascale Ruffaldi, Jean Luc Dupouey, Murielle Georges-Leroy, Frédéric Ritz and Etienne Dambrine