Meaning of name: Kenneth Jackson gives us ‘Old Lad’  which is fair considering the components of the name. The first being Gaulish *Magus, meaning enfant, servant, valet. The second component being the interesting -Sanus, which Lauran Toorians argues descends from Gaulish *Senos. Implications of Batavians shifting from Celtic to Germanic as an elite language would make this an example of a possible Germanized Celtic epithet or theonym. Our friends over at Frankisk Allodium translate His name as Hoary Youth or Eternal Hero, from Proto-Germanic *Maguz which a cognate to Gaulish *Magus and *Senaz/*Sinaz which a cognate to Gaulish *Senos. This seems to agree mostly with Jackson’s translation. It should be noted that Jackson had found the late British personal name Mahoveni corresponding to *Magusenos (the proposed Gaulish version of Magusanus).
An alternate meaning of the name, ‘The Strong’, was proposed by J.A. MacCulloch. This comes from the idea that the first component could be related to Old High German Magan. He however gives no information on the second component. He argues that this name is connected to Magni (Thor’s son whose name means Strong or Great) and corresponds to Thor’s epithet ‘hin rammi’. MacCulloch also brings up Hercules-Malliator (Hercules of metal-workers) from an inscription Obernburg in an attempt to demonstrate that ‘Germanic’ Hercules is in fact Donnar via Malliator’s working with hammers. While these are tempting and possible connections to draw from, MacCulloch has been criticized as outdated. Rudolf Simek makes a similar etymological argument for Magusanus relating to Gothic ‘Mahts’ (might), but is similarly disputable.
It should also be noted however that while Magusanus is a god of the Batavians (who are undoubtedly Germanic), it is quite possible that He was originally part of the indigenous Eburones cultus. This is evidenced by concentrated Eburones coin findings in the eastern part of the Dutch river-area which was later inhabited by the Batavians. This would further implicate an acculturation or even a shift between Celtic and Germanic alongside the briefly proposed linguistic ideas above. To shorten the linguistic argument, either the Batavian elite spoke a Germanic language and borrowed Celtic elements or the elite were speaking Celtic with a heavy Germanic accent. Peter Schrijver goes into further detail on the possible phonetic changes in other works.
A Proto-Germanic option for the theonym might look something like ‘Magôsenaz’, according to Erik Ingruoda of Thia Frankisk Aldsido.
Function: His temple at Empel demonstrates a military function, but one of protection according to Nico Roymans and Ton Derks. This is evidenced by weapon offerings at the temple, which is not a Roman practice. The offerings could have been left there as a thanks for protection during military service. There is speculation that the temple at Elst is also a location of Hercules-Magusanus worship. If this is indeed the case, the evidence of souvetaurilia would point to a fertility function as well, normally reserved for Mars like deities. However, as Frankisk Allodium points out, Magusanus shares traits with thunder god imagery like a ‘Donarkeule’. Considering this and the possibility of Magusanus having a propensity for fertility of the land, this could bring Him into a similar position as gods like Donnar/Thor.
Syncretized as Hercules, Magusanus could have been a patron of athletics and young people but also a protector of military youths (velites). This is evidenced by epigraphy with Him being paired alongside Haeva who appears to be a Germanic goddess concerned with youth and the family. Of course, Ton Derks points out that Hercules was also a protector of merchants, trade, wealth and cattle and therefore may be appropriate to consider Magusanus the same. Derks then describes a depiction of Him on one side of Nehalennia in Domburg while Neptune is depicted on the other, evidencing these functions.
Lauran Toorians gives a suggestion on the Celtic side. This hinges on the translation of Magusanus’ name as being ‘Old Lad’ being correct, but it might give clarification for a Celtic origin. Toorians brings Lucan’s account of a depiction of (Southen Gaulish)Ogmios, in which He equates to Herakles (Greek version of Hercules). Ogmios is described as an ‘old man’ carrying a bow and club, but with chains that are attached to his tongue and the ears of his followers (which is described as being allegory for eloquence). Toorians does warn us about this connection is not a certainty, but does state that this could show that ‘the (youthful) virility of a champion and old agedness could be combined in one concept Celtic religious thought’.
Iconography: A Hercules-like depiction with club in one hand, drinking cup in the other hand, lion skin, a three headed dog akin to Cerberus in His presense .
Attested Sources: At least 21 inscriptions (15 of those in the Lower Rhineland).
Interpretatio Romana: Hercules
Senobessus Bolgon interpretation: Magusanus is protector of those who are in military service, particularly the youthful initiate and those nearing retirement in their service. Magusanus is a protector of travelers but also merchants and wealth. He is the patron of athletics and is a guide to those in pursuit of such endeavors. When fertility of the land is needed, He is offered to for rain as a thunderer. With the possible connection to Ogmios and depiction with Cerberus, He could also be one to pray to for protection against death and a safe journey to the underworld. If Toorians, Schrijver and Roymans are to be believed in their linguistic arguments, He would be a great focus for those interested in a Eburonic practice.
1. Language and History in Early Britain. A Chronological Survey of the Brittonic Languages lst to 12th c. AD. by Kenneth Jackson
2. Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise by Xavier Delamarre 2003
3. Magusanus and the ‘Old Lad’: A case of Germanicised Celtic by Lauran Toorians
4. Magusanus and the ‘Old Lad’: A case of Germanicised Celtic by Lauran Toorians
6. Celtic Culture: A-Celti Edited by John T. Kock P.1193
7. Eddic Mythology by J.A. MacCulloch 1930 P. 69
8. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. Trans. Angela Hall. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer. by Rudolf Simek 1993
9. Ethnic Identity and Imperial Power. The Batavians in the Early Roman Empire by Nico Roymans P.249
10. Celtic Culture: A-Celti Edited by John T. Kock P.1193
11. Amsterdammer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik Volume 41 P.13-22 by Peter Schrijver
12. Kelten in Nederlan P.69-87 by Peter Schrijver
13. North-Western European Language Evolution volume 35 Issue 1 P.3-47 by Peter Schrijver
14. De tempel van Empel (1994) by Nico Roymans and Ton Derks
17. Ritual Failure: Archaeological Perspectives edited by Vasiliki G. Koutrafouri, Jeff Sanders 2013 P. 145
19. Coins, soldiers and the Batavian Hercules cult. Coin deposition in the sanctuary of Empel in the Lower
Rhine region by Nico Roymans and Joris Aarts P.5 and P.12
20. Gods, Temples, and Ritual Practices: The Transformation of Religious Ideas: The Transformation of Religious Ideas and Values in Roman Gaul By Ton Derks 1998 P. 113
21. Magusanus and the ‘Old Lad’: A case of Germanicised Celtic by Lauran Toorians
22. Ritual Failure: Archaeological Perspectives edited by Vasiliki G. Koutrafouri, Jeff Sanders 2013 P. 144