The gods of Gaulish Polytheism are the Deuoi/Dewoi. While the term, constructed based on the Proto-Indo-European word directly translates to “god”, there are also connotations to “Shining Ones” and “Celestial Ones” (Delamarre, 2003). But this doesn’t limit the term to only celestial beings, as the Gauls had always been placing offerings in locations directly tied to the underworld as well. Linguistically at least, there is no distinction between higher spirits and lesser ones through the use of this reconstructed term.
Gaulish Polytheism is a polytheistic religion that attempts to recreate the religious traditions of the tribes and nations who lived in the geographical region of Gaul as described by classical authors. This region includes modern France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Rhineland of Germany, Switzerland, and the southern Netherlands (Britannica ‘Gaul’). Gaulish people are also known to have lived in northern Italy, northern Spain, parts of Austria and Slovenia, the southern coast of Britain, and the Galatia region of Turkey.
As Gaulish Polytheism isn’t united in thought or practice, there is a matter of debate on which chronological periods are to be included in the reconstruction of the ancient Gaulish religions so it can be adapted to the modern day. There are four Eras of Gaul that can be argued for, from oldest to most recent are: Hallstatt, La Tène, Gallo-Roman, and Merovingian (Britannica ‘History of France, Gaul’). Here within Toutâ Galation, we recognize La Tène & Gallo-Roman as the major representations of Gaulish Polytheism. While elements of Gaulish Polytheism remained influential even until the end of the Merovingian period, they are not as prevalent as they were in the aforementioned eras. Regardless, we do still welcome inspiration, ideas, and Deuoi from the Merovingian and the more ancient Hallstatt.
The major components of Gaulish culture, languages, and religions that are interpreted through the classical and archaeological records, is that it was never ethnically based (Pope, 2021). Ideas and customs were freely shared with neighbours, who overtime included the Gaulish gods in their worship, adopted many cultural practices, and spoke their own tongues of Gaulish, and perhaps, in turn, contributed to the enrichment of the culture, languages, and religions of the Gaulish nations and tribes by sharing back (Pope, 2021). Classical authors wrote on how love and sex was embraced by consenting adults of all genders (Strabo, 4.4.6). While ancient Gaul of course was not some sort of bastion of ethics by modern standards, modern Gaulish Polytheists take these lessons especially to heart, ensuring that the modern religion is inclusive and welcoming.
Language in ancient Gaul was as varied as Her people (Mullen and Darasse, 2019). The Gauls had no standardized written scripts of their own, however, they often used Latin, Etruscan, Lepontic, and ancient Greek scripts, spelling out their languages phonetically (Mullen and Darasse, 2020). In addition to the closely related languages of the Gallo-Brittonic Celtic language family, Gaulish people were known to speak other languages like Greek and Vulgar Latin, which became more prominent in the later Gallo-Roman period.
As previously mentioned, there was also no single Gaulish religion (Häussler, 2012). Individual tribes and nations held their own customs and gods. In fact, most Gaulish gods were extremely localized and only a few were widespread (Häussler, 2011). A single given tribe would have many similarities with the others in close proximity, however, differences would add up the further away groups were.
A major contributor to this was how the cultural and regional neighbours influenced each other. Gaul was divided into three major parts, Belgica, Celtic Gaul, and Aquitania (Caesar 1.1). The Belgae were situated in the north, in close proximity to many Germanic tribes. As a result, these tribes, and other tribes living close to the Germanic peoples like the Helvetii living in modern-day Switzerland exchanged culture, religion, and language resulting in the Celtic tribes living there becoming Germanised, and the Germanic tribes living there to become more Celtic.
The Aquitani however, were a much different story (Strabo 4.1.1). They were a unique culture with completely separate origins to the rest of Iron Age Europe, some eventually becoming the modern Basque people in northern Spain. These Aquitani in Gaul were heavily gallicized but shared unique customs, gods, and language among themselves.
Those living in Celtic Gaul, and to an extent all other regions as well owe their transformation of culture and religion to the Archaic Greeks, though after centuries of close trade from the Mediterranean making its way up rivers north, eventually changed Hallstatt into the much beloved La Tène culture (Pope, 2021).
As you can see, Gaulish Polytheism isn’t meant to be a monolithic religion. These were ancient people who accepted and freely shared customs and religion among each other and those outside of geographical Gaul. Modern Gaulish Polytheists take inspiration from all sorts of places, each one with diverse beliefs. Historically, there were those who syncretized their beliefs with the Britons, the Germans, the Hellens, ect, and were no less Gaulish in their faith as we understand it today. You might find your Gaulish custom among the Celtic Gauls right at the center, or far to the east among the Galatians. All are genuine paths for a Gaulish Polytheist.
The way we choose to loosely define Gaulish Polytheism here in Toutâ Galation, is the beliefs and customs of the Gauls, interpreted for the 21st century. In our opinion, a Gaulish Polytheist must worship the gods, know how to perform a basic ritual, and subscribe to the worldview. Non-essential elements can include votive (religious) jewelry, a Gaulish name (we offer initiation under a Gaulish name of your choosing as a right of passage), use of Gaulish languages, as well as acts of service in your communities.
Aldhouse-Green, M.J. (2011). The gods of the Celts. Stroud, Gloucestershire: History Press.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Gaul”. Encyclopedia Britannica, Invalid Date, https://www.britannica.com/place/Gaul-ancient-region-Europe. Accessed 22 February 2022.
Britannica, The Editors of Encylcopaedia. “History of France – Gaul”. Encyclopedia Britannica, Invalid Date, https://www.britannica.com/place/France/History. Accessed 22 February 2022.
Caesar, J., Gallic War, trans. W. A. McDevitte and W. S. Bohn. 1st Edition. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1869. Book 1, chapter 1. https://exploringcelticciv.web.unc.edu/julius-caesar-commentaries-on-the-gallic-war/.
Delamarre, X., 2003. Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise: une approche linguistique du vieux-celtique continental. Editions errance.
Häussler, R., Santangelo, F. and Richardson, J., 2011. Beyond ‘polis religion’and sacerdotes publici in southern Gaul. Priests and State in the Roman World. Potsdamer Altertumswissenschaftliche Beiträge, 33, pp.391-428.
Häussler, R., 2012. Interpretatio indigena: re-inventing local cults in a global world. Interpretatio Indigena: Re-inventing Local Cults in a Global World, pp.143-174.
Mullen, A. and Ruiz Darasse, C., 2019. Gaulish: Language, writing, epigraphy (Vol. 6). Prensas de la Universidad de Zaragoza.
Mullen, A. and Darasse, C.R., 2020. Gaulish. Palaeohispanica. Revista sobre lenguas y culturas de la Hispania Antigua, (20), pp.749-783.
Pope, R., 2021. Re-approaching Celts: Origins, society, and social change. Journal of Archaeological Research, pp.1-67.
Strabo., The Geography of Strabo, ed. and trans. H. C. Hamilton and W. Falconer. London: George Bell & Sons, 1903. 4.1.1, 4.4.6. https://exploringcelticciv.web.unc.edu/strabo-geography/.