2) Equivalence in meaning?

It is noteworthy that the same epithet can be associated with both the terms Matres and Matronae in the inscriptions, which clearly proves that these two forms are interchangeable and equivalent in meaning.154 An example is that of the Senonae, who are called Matres in an obscure dedication from Metz (Moselle) and Matronae in Boeckingen (Germany): Seno(nibus) Matro(nis) coh(ors) I Helvet(iorum) […] vslm, ‘To the Matronae Senonae, Cohort I of Helvetia [...] paid the vow willingly and deservedly’.155 Their name, based on Gaulish senos, ‘old’, ‘ancient’, cognate with Old Irish sen, Welsh, Cornish and Breton hen, ‘old’ (< IE156 *senos), is undeniably Celtic. The Matres / Matronae Senonae (‘the Old Mothers’) may have been deities of age or protective ancestors and are etymologically linked to the sept* of the Senones (‘The Old Ones’), who gave their name to the city of Sens (Yonne, France).157 The Octocannae are also named Matronae on seven dedications from the sanctuary of Krefeld-Lank (Gripswald) and Gellep (Germany), and Matres in a dedication from Gellep.158 While the linguists do not concur on the meaning of their name, they agree that they are Celtic goddesses; the first part of their name being not necessarily Latin octo, ‘eight’. According to Delamarre, who breaks down their name as *Ougtu-candā, with octo-, oxtu-, ‘cold’, cognate with Old Irish uacht, and cand(i) > cann-, similar to Welsh and Breton can(n), ‘white’ or ‘shinning’, their epithet could mean something like ‘White Cold’ or ‘Shining with Frost’.159 They would therefore have been Winter Mother Goddesses, bearing some resemblance to the Norse Hrímpursar (‘Rime Thurses’ or ‘Frost-Giants’).160 Karl Schmidt and Wolfgang Spickermann relate their name to the root *puktókā > *(p)októka - see Middle Irish ochtach, meaning ‘Fir’ or ‘Spruce’.161 The Matronae / Matres Octocannae might thus have been ‘Tree Mothers’.

This alternation between the forms Matres and Matronae is also found for Mother Goddesses possessing Germanic epithets (see below). The Andrustehiae are called Matronae on four inscriptions from Cologne, Bonn and Godesberg, and Matres on another dedication from Cologne.162 Similarly, theAumenahenae are called Matres and Matronae on two different dedications from Cologne.163 The Vacallinehae, who are generally called Matronae – twenty-nine inscriptions from Germany out of forty-nine mention this form -, are also associated with the term Matres in a dedication from Endenich (Germany).164 Finally, the Aufaniae, who are honoured in seventy-two dedications, are named Matronae in forty-five inscriptions from Germany, France (Lyons) and the Netherlands, and Matres on three inscriptions from Zülpich, Nettersheim (Germany) and Carmona (Spain).165 One of the inscriptions is particularly interesting, for it says Matribus sive Matronis Aufanabus, ‘Matres or Matronae Aufaniabus’, which clearly shows that there was no sharp difference in meaning between the two terms.166


Derks, 1998, p. 120 ; Šašel Kos, 1999, p. 191.


The inscription from Metz remains yet hypothetical. CIL XIII, 4304: Dis M Senon(u)m Tris et Domin(o) Mer(curio) Cosumi ex iussu Mercur(ii) ; CIL XIII, 6475.


IE means ‘Indo-European’.


Delamarre, 2003, pp. 270-271 ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 289 ; De Bernardo Stempel, 2005, p. 22. The Senones were a Celtic tribe inhabiting the present region of the Sénonnais in France, which is to say the départements of Yonne, Aube, Seine-et-Marne and Côte d’Or. Sens was their capital under the name of Agendicum, cf. Kruta, 2000, p. 815.


CIL XIII, 8571-8577 (Matronis Octocannabus) ; AE 1981, 686 (Matribus Octocannis) dates from the first half of the 3rd c. AD.


Delamarre, 2007, pp. 144, 215, 228.


Mortensen, 2003, p. 51 ; Guirand & Schmidt, 2006, pp. 336-338.


Spickermann, 2005, p. 141 ; Schmidt, 1987, pp. 148-149 ; Gutenbrunner, 1936, p. 223 ; Mees, 2002, pp. 139-141.


Matronae: AE 1956, 245 ; CIL XIII, 8212 (Cologne) ; AE 1931, 23 (Bonn) ; CIL XIII, 7995 (Godesberg). Matres: AE 1981, 669.


CIL XIII, 12054 (Matres), 8215 (Matronae).


See RDG, pp. 68-69 for references to the inscriptions. The one mentioning the form Matres is CIL XIII, 8003a.


For more details, see the list below. The references are in RDG, pp. 24-26.


CIL XIII 8021. The whole inscription is the following: Matribus sive Matronis Aufanabus Domesticis M. Clodius Marcellinus Mles Leg I M v.s.l.