Andraste - The Warrior Goddess: The patron Goddess of the Iceni tribe. Andraste is a warrior goddess, the goddess of victory. Her name means the invincible one.
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Thursday, 23 October 2014

Andraste - The Warrior Goddess

Andraste - The Warrior Goddess

(Andrasta, Adraste, Andred)

(Romano-Celtic; British; Anglo-Celtic; Continental Europe) The patron Goddess of the Iceni tribe.

Andraste is a warrior goddess, the goddess of victory, of ravens and of battles, similar in many ways to the Irish war goddess Morrigan. Her name is thought to mean "the invincible one" or "she who has not fallen". It is told that her presence was evoked on the eve of battle to curry favour. As a Goddess of divination, she was probably called upon to divine the outcome of battles and war.

She was was venerated in woodland groves throughout Southern Britain and there is told of a sacred grove dedicated to Andraste somewhere in Epping Forest. Her symbol is the hare. [1] (This could be a mis-understanding of a form of divination using Hares - See quote from Dio Cassius)

As Andred, her Romanised name is Andraste, she was a lunar mother-goddess figure associated with fertility and love. In her dark aspect however, she was associated principally with warfare and specifically with victory. She is sometimes compared to the goddess Andarte, a deity worshipped by the Vocontii of Gaul.

The Iceni Queen Boudicca (Latin Boadicea), leader of a rebellion against the Roman occupation, is said to have propitiated Andraste in her campaigns against the Romans. Boudicca released a hare as part of the rite of propitiation.

Robert Graves in "The White Goddess" speaks of a "taboo" in Britain against hunting hares, for fear that killing one might afflict the hunter with cowardice. He considers the likelihood that Boudicca in fact released the animal hoping that the Romans might strike at it, and loose their courage.

The army of Queen Boudicca sacked the cities of Camulodunum (Clochester), Londinium, (London) and Verlanium (St Albans), It appears that the sacking of London was exceptionally savage and according to Roman historian Tacitus, the Roman women were rounded up, taken to a grove that was dedicated to the worship of the Celtic war goddess, Andraste, where they were murdered, had their breast cut off and stuffed into their mouths, and then were impaled with large skewers. This sacred grove was known to the Britons as Andraste's Grove and is thought to have been somewhere in Epping Forest.

There is also a possible link to the Celtic goddess Boudiga (Welsh root, 'budd'), whose name means "Victory." It is possible that the name is a religious title, perhaps given to her during the early part of the rebellion.

It is therefore likely that Boudicca occupied a dual position both as tribal leader and as the manifestation of a Druidic or Celtic Goddess. There is the mystery of Boudicca’s name; Boudicca means ‘victory’. She has been identified with Brigantia the war goddess of the Brigantes (the Romans called Brigantia ‘Victory’ and even by 200AD altars were still being erected to her). She is linked with Morrigan known as the Great Queen in Ireland. She is also associated with the triple war goddess whose three persons are Nemain (Frenzy), Badb Catha (Battle Raven) and Macha (Crow) whose sacred birds were fed allowed to feed on the stake impaled heads of those slaughtered in battle.

The goddess invoked by Boudicca before the last battle is reputed to be Andrasta (also known as Victory). Boudicca, it is said, sacrificed those she defeated in battle to Andrasta, she took no captives. Therefore it could possibly be deduced that Boudicca was not her personal name, but perhaps an official or religious title which would mean that from the point of view of her followers that she was the personification of a goddess.

This would help to explain the fanaticism of her followers who were drawn to her from a variety of tribes and also their unusual willingness to unite so completely, and to follow the leadership of a woman in battle. Tacitus’s observation that Boudicca released a hare between the two armies before the battle, suggests that this is indication of a priestess seeking augury. Further that the mutilation of the dead, indicating that many were not just killed but sacrificed to the Celtic Goddess Andrasta, indicates Boudicca's status as a priestess of the Goddess.

Boudicca's Speech Before The Last Battle.

"It is not as a woman descended from noble ancestry, but as one of the people that I am avenging lost freedom, my scourged body, the outraged chastity of my daughters. Roman lust has gone so far that not our very persons, nor even age or virginity are left unpolluted."

"But heaven is on the side of the righteous vengeance; a legion which dared to fight has perished; the rest are hiding themselves in their camp, or are thinking anxiously of flight. They will not sustain even the din and the shout of so many thousands, much less our charge and our blows.

"If you weigh well the strength of the armies, and the causes of the war, you will see that in this battle you must conquer or die. This is a woman's resolve. As for the men, they may live and be slaves!"

So we have tantalising glimpses of a Goddess to whom very little is known, Andraste warrior Goddess of the Iceni tribe, who accepted sacrifices of hares and, perhaps, humans. As Andraste she represented the darkest, most needful aspects of warcraft, to be called upon in times of dire emergency and propitiated with the sacrifice of blood, considered to be the most potent magic of all.

Here in her darkest aspect she would be seen as the Crone or the Dark of the Moon, the Cutter of the Threads, the one to whom all return. It is not so strange since death is so much a part of warfare. This dark side is tempered by her aspect as Andred, here she is a lunar mother-goddess figure associated with fertility and love, the creator and bringer of life. It is also possible that another of her aspects, her maiden or youthful side was also worshipped, as a goddess of the hunt. As a lunar Goddess, the Maiden, Mother, Crone triplicity would almost certainly have been venerated.

Quote from Dio Cassius

Let us, therefore, go against them trusting boldly to good fortune. Let us show them that they are hares and foxes trying to rule over dogs and wolves."

When she had finished speaking, she employed a species of divination, letting a hare escape from the fold of her dress; and since it ran on what they considered the auspicious side, the whole multitude shouted with pleasure, and Buduica, raising her hand toward heaven, said:

"I thank thee, Andraste, and call upon thee as woman speaking to woman; for I rule over no burden-bearing Egyptians as did Nitocris, nor over trafficking Assyrians as did Semiramis (for we have by now gained thus much learning from the Romans!),  much less over the Romans themselves as did Messalina once and afterwards Agrippina and now Nero (who, though in name a man, is in fact a woman, as is proved by his singing, lyre-playing and beautification of his person); nay, those over whom I rule are Britons, men that know not how to till the soil or ply a trade, but are thoroughly versed in the art of war and hold all things in common, even children and wives, so that the latter possess the same valour as the men.

As the queen, then, of such men and of such women, I supplicate and pray thee for victory, preservation of life, and liberty against men insolent, unjust, insatiable, impious, — if, indeed, we ought to term those people men who bathe in warm water, eat artificial dainties, drink unmixed wine, anoint themselves with myrrh, sleep on soft couches with boys for bedfellows, — boys past their prime at that, — and are slaves to a lyre-player and a poor one too.

Wherefore may this Mistress Domitia-Nero reign no longer over me or over you men; let the wench sing and lord it over Romans, for they surely deserve to be the slaves of such a woman after having submitted to her so long. But for us, Mistress, be thou alone ever our leader."

Dio Cassius

Roman History by Cassius Dio
Published in Vol. VIII of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1925

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