B) Some indications on the meaning of the Germanic epithets

The study of those Germanic goddesses is beyond the scope of this study, which is why we will not analyse and comment on the significance of their names but merely give here an overall view of the matter. Neumann, who bases his work on Jan De Vries’s, Julius Pokorny’s, Kern’s and Gutenbrunner’s previous studies, proposes a comprehensive analysis of the etymologies of those Germanic goddess names.277 The epigraphic references to the goddesses are given in the above list.

First of all, it appears that some Germanic divine titles refer to the landscape or to the functions fulfilled by the Mother-Goddesses. The Matronae Chuchenehae / Cuchenehae might for instance personify the ‘Hill’, their name being derived from Germanic *hauha, ‘high’.278 The famous Matronae or Matres Aufaniae should be understood as *au-fanja- (> *au-fani-), i.e. ‘Isolated Boogy Land’ or ‘Remote Swamp’, with Germanic *fanja ‘swamp’, ‘marsh’, corresponding to Gothic fani, ‘mud’.279 As for the Vanginehae, their name may come from the root *wanga-, ‘countryside’, ‘field’, ‘meadow’ and thus be in close relation with the landscape.280

Moreover, some epithets are hydronyms*, such as that of the Matres Aumenahenae, which corresponds to the river Oumena, today Aumenau, flowing by the city of Aumenau (Hesse, Germany).281 The Matronae Cuchenehae also bear a close relation to the river Kocher, in Old High German Cochana, situated in the north-eastern part of Baden-Württernberg (Germany).282 As for the Matronae Etrahenae, their name might be derived from Germanic *aitrah, ‘water which becomes swollen’, that is ‘river in spate’,283 and the Vataranehae, Veteranehae, Veterahenae from the Germanic *watar, ‘water’.284

Other divine bynames* are ethnonyms*. An example is that of the Matronae Hamavehae, who are etymologically linked to the Chamavi, a Germanic people settled along the North bank of the Lower Rhine – this region, which is nowadays Hamaland, was called after them.285 Similarly, the Matres Kannanefates are the Mothers of the Germanic tribe of the Cananefates, Canninefates, Caninefates, or Canenefatae, who inhabited the western part of the Batavian Island – now the western part of the Netherlands.286 The Matronae Vanginehae and the Matres Vagionae, who are honoured in Neidernberg,287 are etymologically related to the Vangiones, who inhabited today northern Alsace (France), while the Matres Suebae are eponymous of the sept* of the Suebi, settled along the Rhine and later in the region of today’s Alsace.288 The Matres Frisavae are eponymous of the sept* of the Frisii or Frisiavi, living in some parts of the coast of the Nertherlands and Germany,289 and theMatres / Matronae Cantrusteihae (Andrustehiae) are related to the Condrusi, who were probably located in the region named after them, Condroz, situated between Liège and Namur (Belgium).290

Finally, some epithets are toponymic*, because they refer to place-names, such as the Matronae Albiahenae, who could be understood as ‘the Mothers of Albiniacum’, now Elvenich,291 the Matronae Iulineihiae, ‘the Mothers of Iuliacum’, now Jülich,292 the Matronae Lanehiae, ‘the Mothers of Lechenich’,293 the Matronae (Vatiae) Nersihenae, ‘the Mothers of Nersiceniacum’, now Neersen,294 and the Matronae Mahlinehae, ‘the Mothers of Mecheln’ (Antwerp, Belgium).295

Therefore, one can notice that the Germanic Mother Goddesses have epithets, which, exactly like the Celtic Mother Goddesses, are descriptive of their functions or refer to the landscape, rivers (hydronyms*), peoples (ethnonyms*) and places (toponyms*), which they embody, protect and rule.


Neumann, 1987, pp. 103-132 ; RGA, vol. 19, pp. 438-440 ; De Vries, 1931, pp. 85-125 ; De Vries, 1957 ; Pokorny, 1959-1969 ; Gutenbrunner, 1936 ; Kern, 1873-1875, pp. 153-177. See also Herz, 1989, pp. 206-218.


Neumann, 1987, p. 114.


Neumann, 1987, pp. 114-115 ; Kern, 1873-1875, pp. 164-166 translates their name ‘Lady’, ‘Nymph’, i.e. ‘Lady of the area or Lady of the river’, cf. Gemanic fani, feni, ‘Valkyrie, fairy, nymph’.


Neumann, 1987, p. 116 ; RGA, vol. 19, p. 439. Their name is to be related to the toponym* Wangen in Allgäu, which is located in the south-west of the district of Souabe, in Baviera (Germany).


Neumann, 1987, p. 110.


Neumann, 1987, p. 114. The river Kocher is a 182 kms long right tributary of the Nekar.


Spickermann, 2005, p. 145 ; Neumann, 1987, pp. 108, 115-116.


Neumann, in RGA, vol. 19, p. 439 ; but Kern, 1873-1875, pp. 168-169 proposes ‘Hospitality’.


Neumann, 1987, p. 111 ; RGA, vol. 19, p. 439.


RGA, vol. 19, p. 439 ; Tacitus, The Histories, Book IV, written around 100-110 AD.


AE 1967, 338.


Neumann, 1987, pp. 111, 116 ; De Vries, 1931, p. 98 ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 425.


Neumann, 1987, p. 111 ; RGA, vol. 19, p. 439 ; Spickermann, 2002, p. 147 ; Specht, 1937, p. 6 ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 425.


Neumann, 1987, p. 111 ; Julius Caesar, De Bello Gallico, II, 4.


CIL XIII, 7933, 7934, 7935, 7936 ; Roscher, vol. II-2 col. 2466 ; Paulys, vol. 14.2, p. 2244.


CIL XIII, 7882 ; see Spickermann, 2005, p. 130 ; Spickermann, 2002, p. 147 ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 425 ; De Vries, 1931, pp. 97-98.


CIL XIII, 7976 ; Paulys, vol. 14.2, p. 2244.


CIL XIII, 7883 ; Roscher, vol. II-2 col. 2466.


CIL XIII, 8492, 8221, AE 1935, 101 ; Roscher, vol. II-2 col. 2466.