**Written by Renotaurus Phôlsson**
Meaning of name: Adam von Bremen cites a linguistic descendant as Wodan, “which means fury”, from Proto-Germanic *Wodanaz, “Raging one”. It survives in German today as “Wut” which means “anger, madness, (state of) frenzy”. In Germanic, the meanings are delirious, possessed, frantic, furious, insane, wild, god-inspired, inspired, poetry, and song, while in Celtic, prophet, sooth-sayer, seer, prophecy, poem, and satire are given. The latin vates is presumed to be a loanword from Gaulish uatis “seer”. Koch (2020) constructs a Celto-Germanic form *watis and gives it the primary meaning of “god-inspired”. Schaffner proposed Wodunaz as the original shape, which would lead to a meaning of “the great inspired one”, or considering the Celtic angle “the great prophet” Rubekeil supports uatis being lent from Proto-Celtic into pre-Proto-Germanic as *watis resulting in as “God of the Vates” resulting, This theory receives support in the form of Proto-Celtic *watus, “manic or frenzied poetry” and Latin vates.
Pronunciation: Gaulish: Wah-TAW-naws / Wah-TIHN-naws. Proto-Germanic: WOH-dan-az.
Function: U̯ātonos is a god of the dead, knowledge, the wild hunt, madness, frenzy, poetry and rage. He is also a god of wisdom and self-improvement and has strong ties to magical working such as healing physical and spiritual wounds. He governs many priest functions such divination, trance work, vision quests and otherworldly travel.
Iconography: U̯ātonos is almost always depicted with facial hair: sometimes with just a moustache, and sometimes with a full beard. Though commonly one-eyed, this depiction is far more common for his descendant, the Norse deity Odin. U̯ātonos could have, similar to Irish Lugh, have simply closed one eye during his trance and magical work, leading to the depiction of him as one- eyed. The motif of Seer-characters being “one-eyed” can be traced back to the ancient Scythians.
Todd Morrison remarks how U̯ātonos is, on occasion depicted with a consort. He wields a spear and is often depicted with one, either in the position of the “horned weapon dancer” or wielding one while riding horseback. He is commonly depicted in the abstract animal style. Common motifs have him healing the leg. Another is of him riding a horse or skewering a fallen enemy, or a snake, underhoof.
As the god of hanging he is often associated with ash trees and the World Tree itself and is often accompanied by carrion birds, ravens or crows specifically, or scavenging animals such as wolves. In later times the wolves are replaced by black dogs. U̯ātonos himself is often depicted as an eagle, later folklore describing him as “eagle-eyed” or “with the eyes of an eagle” perhaps due to a shared trait of Proto-Iindo-European sky-fathers being depicted as eagles (Zeus, Jupiter) or perhaps due to cultural exchange with the Roman Empire or the Hunnic invaders during the late 3rd century. This symbolism survives on German heraldry unitil the modern age.
In Dutch, Belgian, and Swiss folklore, a version of him referred to as Wodan is commonly represented wearing a sky-blue cloak or a green riding or hunting outfit. A folklore cognate of his, Türst, is associated with the image of a hunting horn and the patriarchal cross which is thought to represent the World Tree. The patriarchal cross has been used in Europeaneuropean pre-heraldry since the second century, long before the adoption of Christianity and is likely a pre-Christian symbol.
Attested Sources: Mercury is the deity whom they chiefly worship, and on certain days they deem it right to sacrifice to him even with human victims. – Tacitus,Germania
They worship as their divinity, Mercury in particular, and have many images of him, and regard him as the inventor of all arts, they consider him the guide of their journeys and marches, and believe him to have great influence over the acquisition of gain and mercantile transactions. – Julius Caesar, De Bello Gallico
Several inscriptions are dedicated to Mercury as Mercury Cimbrianus (5) and Mercury Avernorix (7). Tacitus states that the Germani as well as the Gauls worshipped Mercury above all other gods. Various brecate of Germanic origin depict Wodanaz or Wodan. The Second Meseberg Charm names U̯ātonos as Uuodan, describing his healing of a wounded horse. Several additional myths of Wodan are contained within the Netherlandic myth collection of the Veluwsche Sagen. His name is also attested in various toponyms across Europe, especially in modern-day Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Samuel Zinner (2016) writes that although U̯ātonos was probably worshipped beforehand, he did not acquire his current name until cultural exchange with the Gaulish and Roman tribes.
Interpretation Romana: Mercury, especially in such forms as Mercurius Cimbrianus (Mercury of the Cimbrians) and Mercurius Hrano — Hrani being one of Odin’s names in Hrolfs Saga. Mercurius Avernorix was a Celtic Mercury worshipped side by side with Mercurius Cimbrianus, curiously within Germanic territory, even though the name means ‘king of the Arverni’ (Auvergne) in the Massif Central, which indicates either a syncretic cult or a shared deity. A number of altars in near Bronn are dedicated to a Mercurius Gebrinius, another Gallo-Germanic Mercury. One other inscription names Mercury Friausius.
Interpretatio Bolgon: Within Mantalon Bolgon, U̯ātonos retains his function as a god of madness, frenzy, battle and death. He is a possible leader of the Wild Hunt, out to test mortals or punish frith-breakers. U̯ātonos assumes the role as U̯atis and seer for both mortals and the other gods, making him an excellent tutelary deity. U̯ātonos is an excellent diviner, traceworker, and psychopomp, as well as healer for physical injuries. His close connection to the World Tree, as god of the hanged and god of the Vates, lends itself well to dreamwork, augury, and rune casting.
Names as Taboo: Many continental Germanic and Celtic deities are represented within myth and text by kennings and titles rather than their names. Ceisiwr Serith (2009) suggests that this might have been common for many cultures descended from the Proto-Indo-European language groups; to utter the name of a god was to attract their attention, which was not always wanted. Other examples of this include Frija, “wife” and Fro, “Lord”. As such, gods like U̯ātonos and Fro had many different titles, which could vary from region to region. Gunivortus Goos (2019) lists Frau Holle as another Gallo-Germanic goddess who was more popularly known by her title than her name. Goos suggests this was more common for cChthonic deities. This trait may have helped them survive the Christianization of Europe and allow gods such as U̯ātonos and Frau Holle to become entrenched in folklore much more easily than those who were commonly known by a singleular name.
- Ceisiwr Serith. Deep Ancestors : Practicing the Religion of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. Tucson, Ariz., Adf Pub, 2009.
- Gunivertoos Goos. Goddess Holle (3rd Edition), Books on Demand, 2019
- Karl, Grimm Jacob Ludwig. Teutonic Mythology. Dover Publications, 1966.
- Morrison, Todd. The Origins and Spread of the *Wothanaz cult
- Zinner, Samuel. Wodan as regnator omnium deus in Tacitus’ Germania 39, 2016
- Adam of Bremen, and Bernhard Schmeidler. Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum : Hamburgische Kirchengeschichte. Hannover, Hahn, 1917.
- Koch, J.T. (2020). “CELTO-GERMANIC: Later Prehistory and Post-Proto-Indo-European vocabulary in the North and West.” University of Wales: Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, Aberystwyth.
- Kroonen, G. (2013) Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic, Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.
- Caesar, Julius, De Bello Gallico
- Ludwig Rubekiel, Woden und andere forschungsgeschichtliche Liechen exhumiert Beitrge zur ӓ Namenforschung 38, 2003, 25-42